So far this year, there have been more than 500,000 car accidents in Florida and nationally involving drivers using a cell phone or texting.

Every 30 seconds there is another distracted driving accident, says the National Safety Council.

Distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions. A recent study found that an estimated nine percent of drivers were using a handheld or hands-free cell phone at any given moment.

Law enforcement agencies from Tallahassee to Tampa have made catching distracted drivers a top priority.

Tips for Avoiding a Distracted Driving Disaster

The Florida Highway Patrol has dedicated a web page to the problem of distracted driving. Here are some of the patrol’s pointers:

  • Make safe driving your first priority. Get in the habit of not using your cell phone while driving. If you are behind the wheel and you get a call, let it ring or pull over to take it.
  • Keep your eyes on the road. If you absolutely must use your cell phone while driving, wait until you are stopped at a traffic light or stop sign and dial the number quickly. Place your call before pulling back into traffic. Memorize the feel of the buttons on your phone so you don’t have to look down at it to accept or place a call.
  • Be prepared. Don’t take notes or look up numbers while driving. Use speed dial. Install a hands-free device to avoid having to take your hands off the wheel.
  • Limit conversation. Keep all phone chats brief. Engaging in lengthy conversations is asking for trouble. It is hard to focus on driving while you are trying to make vacation plans or comfort a friend in the hospital. Avoid stressful or emotional conversations that may distract you from your primary task of driving.
  • Use common sense. Know when it is safe to talk on your cell phone. Never talk during hazardous driving conditions. If road conditions are unsafe, traffic is heavy or weather is severe, turn your phone off.
  • Familiarize yourself with your phone and all its features. Use a hands-free phone if possible. Otherwise, keep your phone within easy reach. Try to use your phone only for emergencies and urgent calls.

Have you been in a wreck involving someone who was texting while driving? Get a free legal consultation with a Florida distracted driving accident lawyer.