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Driving Safety

Fines for distracted driving do not reflect the danger

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” That’s a line from an old TV show from the 70s that anyone who is texting and driving these days probably never viewed. There’s a law against texting and driving, and many will tell you it lacks “teeth” because it is a secondary offense in Florida. That means drivers need to be caught doing something else wrong before they can be ticketed for multi-tasking with their cell phones behind the wheel. The fine for this dangerous behavior is just $30. Does that fit the “crime”?

Some perspective on traffic fines: If you drive with an expired drivers’ license, the fine is $250. I felt very sorry for the student on campus last week, as he was getting a ticket for weaving his scooter around a restricted parking gate. Fine: $170. If you fish without a license, the fine is $100. (With or without a fishing license, the fish do die.)

Can Friday the 13th be a lucky day?

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Somewhere in Florida today, someone is going to have a fender bender. This, like all calamities, is an unfortunate occurrence. But if there are no injuries, that’s lucky! And, if those involved in the crash had proper auto insurance protection, it is both lucky and smart.

Make your own luck by understanding your auto insurance coverage. If things go bump, your first reaction will be to curse the stars (or the other driver). Your second reaction would be to thank yourself for getting the coverage to turn your luck around.

Is Friday the 13th really an unlucky day? Facts about the 13th say it’s mostly superstition. Then again, safe drivers (PUT THE CELL PHONE DOWN!) know luck favors the wise.

Cheaper gas fuels more driving, more car crashes, higher auto insurance cost

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Drivers everywhere continue to enjoy the benefits of low gas prices, and what are they doing to celebrate? They are driving more. It’s less costly to take a road trip now, rather than fly to another destination, so more drivers are taking to the streets. More cars on the road increase the number of traffic crashes which, in turn, translates into higher auto insurance rates.

Uber and out for ride-share bill

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Since the birth of technology-based transportation networking companies, such as Uber and Lyft, 29 states have passed legislation to address the insurance coverage gap that exists. Florida is not one of them. For the third straight year, the Legislature put the ride-sharing bill into park.

Commercial ride-sharing is gaining in popularity. Many states have adopted model legislation to address the gap in auto insurance coverage that exists. The gap occurs when a ride-share driver is “on the clock” to pick up a fare and when a passenger gets into the car. If a car crash happens along the way, that driver would be on his own dime. And, most of those drivers are unaware of this.

Hit-and-run crashes still problematic

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Hit-and-run crashes in Florida are holding steady; it is the same challenging problem it always has been. The Florida Highway Patrol reports more than 92,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015. Those crashes brought 19,000 injuries and 186 fatalities. More than half of those fatalities were pedestrians.

Why do people run away from a crash scene? More often than not, they have had too much to drink and should not have been behind the wheel. Or, they may have a suspended license or let their auto insurance lapse, which is illegal, by the way.

Florida law requires drivers to stop immediately for any car crash in which there is injury to another person. Violating this law is a third degree felony punishable with up to a five-year prison stint (and a mandatory minimum of four years).

Owning up to your mistakes has always been the honorable thing to do. That doesn’t mean it’s always the easy thing to do. But it is – and always will be – the right thing to do.

Deadly mixture: natural disasters and cars

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We feel safe in our cars, right? That might explain why people do very dumb things wrapped in that cocoon of metal, or else road rage wouldn’t exist. But natural disasters give no respect to vehicles. The worst place to be is in your car during a flood, tornado or hurricane.

Last week, I was in the Dallas area, assisting with the insurance industry response to the tornadoes that struck Garland and Rowlett, Texas. Of the 11 fatalities associated with the storm, eight of the victims were in their cars. It is very likely they did not have a clue that a tornado was approaching. It was dark, so they could not see the changes on the horizon. And, if they did not have the radio on or did not have a weather alert app, they were unaware of the approaching storm.

In Florida, we are accustomed to getting a five- to seven-days’ notice that a tropical storm is possible. But with tornadoes, there is only about 13 minutes of average warning time. Turning your smart phone into a warning system is super smart.