Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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When we think of the dangers facing police officers, most of us think of violent or deadly confrontations with criminal suspects.  However, car accidents present the highest risk of injury or death to police officers.

In a recent incident, a Jacksonville police officer who was sitting in his car preparing an accident report was injured when his patrol vehicle was hit from behind on Interstate 295 between New Kings Road and Dunn Avenue.

The patrol car was hit while it was out of the lanes of traffic in the right emergency lane.  The driver apparently lost control and crashed into the rear of the patrol car as the officer was on a call for a single car crash with injuries. The vehicle that hit the patrol car bounced into the left barrier wall and ended up in the center of the interstate.

The police officer was taken to the Shands – UF Jacksonville hospital for treatment of his personal injuries. The driver that struck the patrol car suffered minor injuries and was  treated at the accident scene. Police are investigating whether there were any other factors that caused this accident.

Police officers and other emergency workers face daily dangers on the roads of Florida. That’s why the state enacted a “Move Over” law that is intended to protect first responders such as police, fire and ambulance crews

The “Move Over” law requires drivers to change lanes if possible to provide additional space between the officer and traffic.  For single lane roadways or in circumstances where changing lanes is not possible, drivers must reduce their speed to 20 miles-per-hour below the speed limit. If you are on a road where the speed limit is 20 mph or less, you are required to slow down to 5 mph.

The “Move Over” law was enacted to protect law enforcement and emergency workers from being hit by vehicles passing them at high speed. Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights should be prepared to allow other drivers to move over. We often think of laws like this as applying only to police officers or ambulance and fire officers, but it also applies to tow trucks with yellow flashing lights or other vehicles that may be stopped at the side of the road such as sanitation trucks.

If you fail to move over in compliance with the law, you are subject to being issued a ticket. You may receive 3 points on your license, and have to pay a fine. More importantly you will be putting the lives of emergency workers in danger and could be sued for injuries or fatalities that your actions cause.

Florida’s “Move Over” law at a Glance

When Driving on Multi-Lane Roads:

  • Drivers must move from the lane closest to the stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, sanitation, or utility vehicle.
  • Drivers are required to slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit if they cannot move over safely.
  • Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stationary vehicle should be prepared to allow those who are to move over into their lane

On Roadways with Only One Lane in Each Direction:

  • Drivers must slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit.
  • If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, drivers must travel at 5 mph

Written by David Macaulay

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Distracted driving has been highlighted by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles as the number one cause of accidents in the state and a more serious threat for causing injuries than drunk driving.  While Florida has a ban on texting while driving, a number of our legislators don’t believe it goes far enough in reducing distracted driving.

Florida’s texting-while-driving ban would be strengthened under a proposal filed this month by Sen. Thad Altman, from Rockledge, for the 2016 legislative session. His bill (SB 328) would ensure texting while driving is a “primary” offense – meaning police could pull over motorists who violate the ban without having any other reason to stop the driver.

Currently, as a “secondary” offense, drivers can only be cited for texting while driving if they are stopped for other reasons such as driving erratically or a headlight being out.

Another bill that was filed in August by Rep. Richard Stark, from Weston, would bring in stiffer penalties for motorists who text while driving in school zones or at school crossings. Stark’s bill seeks to double fines for drivers who violate the texting-while-driving ban in the designated school areas.

Although texting while driving is a primary offense in many states, previous attempts to strengthen the law have failed in Florida.  A number of other measures to crack down on cellphone use while driving have been submitted to the legislature but have also failed to be enacted into law.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mia Jones, from Jacksonville, and Sen. Audrey Gibson also from Jacksonville, submitted bills to completely outlaw cellphone use while driving, not just the text messaging banned under the current statute. The bills were unsuccessful. More than half a dozen bills have been introduced to combat distracted driving in Florida.

Local law enforcement officials and activists support the strengthening of the Florida’s distracted driving laws and building off the previous statute.

”We’ve allowed this to happen as a society. We’ve cracked down on drinking and driving, impaired driving, but we haven’t done anything about distracted driving,” said Jay Anderson, executive director and president of Stay Alive…Just Drive!  a distracted driving awareness group.

Florida lags behind many other states in the crackdown on texting at the wheel.  When the legislature passed the “Ban on Texting While Driving” law, Florida was the 41st state to outlaw text messages at the wheel.

The statute made it a secondary offense to use a cellphone to send or read a text message. As well as the concerns about it being a secondary offense, the law also only restricts texting while driving, not if a driver is stopped at traffic lights. Drivers can also be distracted by cellphones for everything from playing music to surfing social media sites to GPS navigation

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 14 states along with Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws.

While no states have a blanket ban on cell phone use for all drivers, 38 states and Washington D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers. Federal laws prevent truckers from using hand held cell phones. All but five of the 46 states that have banned texting while driving have a primary enforcement law.

Earlier this year, Jacksonville Mayor, Alvin Brown, signed a proclamation declaring April 3, 2015, as “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” Day. He asked all residents to help spread awareness against the dangers of texting while driving by signing a new pledge to end distracted driving. He issued new executive orders to promote best safety practices among city employees.

“We want our roads to be safe for everyone in our community,” said Mayor Brown. “Distracted drivers threaten not only their own safety, but also the safety of others. That’s why the city is leading by example, improving our driver certification process and bringing in outside experts to ensure that the welfare of our citizens and property is protected.”

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As reflected in some of our prior blogs, Jacksonville has some of the least pedestrian and bicycle friendly roadways in the nation and few of them are as deadly as the Arlington Expressway.

Recently, it has been announced that there are plans to make the Arlington Expressway safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  If the improvement happens, it won’t come a moment too soon. The expressway was built in 1953 and is vital to linking downtown with Arlington and the Jacksonville Beaches.

More than half a century ago, urban planners focused little towards pedestrians, and roadways were designed primarily with the interests of motorists in mind. That lack of vision has led the expressway to become a very concerning danger in recent years.  One of the main problems is that pedestrians have very few access points to safely cross the expressway.

From May 2010 to May 2015, as many as 100 car accidents per year were reported on the expressway, including three fatalities. During those five years, no fewer than 14 pedestrians were hit, including 10 on service roads for the expressway.

“I would sit here when I’m walking around patrolling, and I watch people with toddlers or whatever crawl between the fence and the pole and dodge traffic to get across,” Bucky Carver, who lives and works near the expressway. The road is so hazardous that officials have sought ways of keeping pedestrians away from part of the expressway that runs from University Boulevard down to Mill Creek Road, the area near the Regency Square Mall. Fences have proven to be of marginal benefit.

However, a preliminary study by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization suggests an alternative plan that would entail a redesign of the expressway in which new bike lanes, sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly areas would be created on both sides of the highway.

The corridor study provides that Jacksonville’s first suburban freeway fails to meet today’s engineering standards as sidewalks are limited and there are few crosswalks. Moreover, the expressway divides communities and people want to be able to cross between them. The existence of as many as 65 vacant or under-utilized parcels of land gives space for features that could make the road safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The plan illustrates alternatives.  Alternative 1 calls for a six-lane highway with a 7-foot bike lane and an 8-foot sidewalk behind trees. Alternative 2 provides for three 12-foot traffic lanes and a 7-foot bike lane with sidewalks along the edge.

The regeneration of the area around the highway presents a number of distinct issues. One of them is the large number of boarded-up buildings where businesses have failed.  The expressway splits the area in two, and some planner think a new expressway would bring both sides together and would make businesses more profitable.

It would cost about $50 million to implement the changes referenced in the report, and it would take state and city approval before the construction can begin. Officials are yet to identify a funding source, but the study said improving the area could have a $178 million positive impact on local commerce.

Jacksonville is not a pedestrian or bicycle friendly city. In 2010, about 200 bicyclists or pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle accidents. This makes our city the third-most dangerous city in the United States for bicyclists and pedestrians. Arlington Expressway is typical of a roadway that lacks designated bike lanes and pedestrian features. Often bicyclists must ride on a sidewalk, which can lead to accidents. Many sidewalks are uneven or nonexistent and do not have curb cuts allowing for safe access on and off the sidewalk at intersections.  Continue reading

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On April 10, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued an important ruling regarding Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine as it applies to the owners of vehicles involved in auto accidents. Generally speaking, Florida’s dangerous instrumentality laws provide that the owner or owners of a vehicle are responsible for any injuries caused by anyone else driving the vehicle with permission. The rationale for this rule is that the owners of a vehicle are in the best position to ensure that persons operating it are safe drivers.

There is an exception to this rule, commonly referred to as “beneficial ownership” exception. This exception applies when the ownership interest in the vehicle has been transferred from one person or entity to another but the title hasnot yet been changed when an auto accident occurs. This situation usually occurs when, in the sale of an automobile, the buyer takes possession the vehicle, yet the title has not been changed to reflect the new owner. In this situation, the seller no longer has the ability to control who is driving the car after possession is given to the buyer, so the rationale of the dangerous instrumentality doctrine is not undermined.

In the case ruled on last week by the Florida Supreme Court, a husband was placed on the title as co-owner with his wife. They later divorced . After the divorce, the husband did not have access to the vehicle nor did he have keys to the vehicle, yet his name remained on the title as a co-owner. The case proceeded to a jury trial and the jury determined that the husband was not a beneficial owner at the time of the accident, and, therefore, the husband was not liable to the plaintiff. Unfortunately, the car accident at issue caused the wrongful death of the driver of the other car. The appellate court held that the husband was still responsible as the owner of the vehicle. The issue was certified as one of great importance to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ex-husband still had the ability to exert control of the vehicle as an owner even though he chose not to do so. The ex-husband’s subjective intent that the wife be the sole owner of the vehicle, and that he gave the vehicle to her as a gift, was not relevant. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ex-husband was responsible for the wrongful death damages resulting from the car accident.

In so doing, the Florida Supreme Court limited the beneficial ownership exception to Florida’s dangerous instrumentality law to apply to the narrow circumstance where the ownership of a vehicle has been transferred, yet the title work has not caught up with such transfer. To rule otherwise would allow co-owners in all sorts of car accidents to avoid liability for injuries by claiming an intent to have no actual interest in the vehicle despite the fact that, legally speaking, he or she did have the right to exert control over the vehicle.

In short, the ruling was a victory for persons injured in car accidents as a co-owner will not be able to escape liability by merely claiming that he or she did not intend to exercise any control over who used the vehicle.
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Earlier this month, a tragic accident on I-295 took the life of one college student and injured two others. According to a report by the Florida Times-Union, the three college students were travelling on I-295 in Duval County, Florida, shortly before noon on December 13th, when they came upon a pickup truck that was travelling slowly in their lane. As the driver attempted to swerve around the pickup truck, she lost control of the vehicle and she over-corrected. The vehicle then spun out of control.


The vehicle containing the three college students then hit a semi truck in a neighboring lane before rolling over. The vehicle ultimate came to a rest upright a few lanes away. All three occupants were wearing their seat belts when the accident occurred. One girl was killed in the accident and the other two were taken to Shands Jacksonville in critical and serious conditions. Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

This is certainly an unnecessary and sad accident. Giving the timing and the age of the occupants, they may have been headed home for Christmas break from college. The grief of their families must be tremendous.

Reckless Driving Causes Accidents

It certainly seems that, in the above example, the driver came needlessly close to the vehicle in front of her before changing lanes. Perhaps this was the result of: failing to properly observe conditions in front of her; being distracted; or driving too aggressively.

Generally reckless or negligent driving can be considered to be any of the following:

– Inattentive Driving (talking to a passenger, day dreaming);
– Distracted Driving (texting, applying make up, reading, eating);
– Speeding;
– Impaired Driving (drugs or alcohol);
– Erratic Passing (cutting in and out of traffic, speeding while passing, passing on the right).

This list is not exhaustive, however. Anytime a driver is not paying full attention to the road, fails to properly maintain their vehicle, or intentionally disobeys a traffic law, that driver is negligent. Negligent driving causes accidents.

When drivers act in an aggressive manner, they greatly increase the chance of causing a car accident. When a driver’s reckless or negligent behavior causes an accident that injures another, that victim is entitled to recover for the cost of their medical bills, future medical expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering resulting from personal injuries.

Photo Credit: Daniel Stagner via Compfight cc
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Last month, a Florida man was allegedly driving under the influence when he collided with a car that was pulled over on the side of the road to help a friend change a flat tire. According to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, three female motorists got a flat tire and called three male friends to help them change the tire. When the male friends arrived, they parked behind the females’ vehicle and began to change the tire.

Flat%20Tire.jpgIn the middle of changing the tire, a BMW came speeding down the highway and apparently didn’t see the cars on the side of the road until it was too late. The driver attempted to veer away from the parked cars, but ended up slamming into the back of the males’ car, sending it into the rear of the females’ car. All six of the victims were taken to the hospital and are recovering well.

The man driving the BMW was apparently driving under the influence with a breath alcohol content of .10. He was arrested and charged with felony DUI causing serious bodily injury. This was not the first time the driver had been charged with a DUI. Apparently, he was charged several years back with a DUI-related offense in Texas.

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Earlier this week, a 66-year old man was hit as he was trying to cross a street in Jacksonville’s westside. According to a report by, the man was attempting to cross the 1300 block of Cassat Avenue when he was struck by a Saturn car that was heading south on Cassat. The car vs. pedestrian accident, that occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m., left the pedestrian dead and the driver of the Saturn uninjured. Police do not suspect that alcohol was a factor, and criminal charges have not been filed.

Crossing%20the%20Street.jpgPedestrian Accidents Are Increasingly Common on City Streets

If you have been paying attention to the headlines lately, you may have noticed that there has been an increase in car accidents involving pedestrians. This deadly trend is due, in part, to the increasing stress placed on Jacksonville’s streets as populations increase, as well as an increase in pedestrian traffic as more people eschew cars for public transit and walking options, especially in light of many people still suffering financially from the recession and having to forego the expense of owning a car.

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Earlier this month in Jacksonville, a driver of a Honda Accord crashed into a truck when the driver was attempting to steer clear of trash being thrown from the truck’s cab. According to a story by, the driver of the Honda was heading northbound on Interstate 295 when the occupant of a red truck began throwing trash out of the truck’s window.

Red%20Semi%20Truck%20Credit.jpgAs the driver tried to get away from the debris coming from the truck, she ended up colliding with the truck and eventually overturning. The passenger of the Honda was ejected from the vehicle and was taken to UF Jacksonville in serious condition. The driver was also taken to Shands Jacksonville in critical condition. The truck did not stop, but continued on down the highway. Police are still looking for the driver of the red truck.

Just One Example of Careless, Negligent Driving

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Last week, a police officer for the city of Lake City, Florida, was arrested for driving under the influence after she was involved in a car accident. According to a report by, the police officer was off duty when she crashed her personal car. When the local police showed up, they an administered a breath alcohol test, and the officer registered a blood alcohol content of about .13. The officer was then arrested for driving under the influence.


Both the Florida Highway Patrol and the Lake City Police Department have said that they will investigate the accident and take appropriate action. The officer was taken to the Columbia County Detention Center, where her bail was set at $1,000.

DUI Accidents in Jacksonville

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a police officer has been charged with a DUI related offense in the Northeast Florida area. While it may be more shocking to see an officer of the law engage in such dangerous activity, the fact is that it does not make a difference who does it: drunk driving is dangerous and must be avoided by everyone.

In Florida, drunk driving accidents cause more fatalities than any other kind of traffic accident. This is due in part to the fact that, generally, these types of auto accidents involve higher speed than other auto accidents.

The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Florida is .08. While every person is different, generally speaking, this limit can be reached with two to three drinks. When these drivers cause an accident, the victim of the accident can recover from the drunk driver for medical expenses, pain, lost wages, disability and punitive damages.

DUI Cases Turn on Negligence

Almost all auto accident cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. Generally speaking, a finding of negligence turns on whether the driver of a car acted unreasonably. The law allows for injured victims of negligent drivers to recover for their medical bills, future medical expenses, as well as for their pain and suffering that was caused by the accident. In DUI cases, the victims often have an easier time proving negligence than in traditional auto accident cases – simply put, it is very difficult for a drunk driver to convince jurors that his or her actions were reasonable.
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Over the weekend, a bicyclist was hit and killed near the intersection of State Road 16 and Four Mile Road in St. Augustine, Florida. According to a report by the St. Augustine Record, the bicyclist was heading east on State Road 16 shortly after 10:30 a.m. when a car, attempting to turn unto Four Mile Road, hit the bicyclist. The bicyclist was riding in the designated bicycle lane at the time of the accident.

The bicyclist was taken to Flagler Hospital immediately, but then transferred to UF Jacksonville by lifeflight shortly after. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the bicyclist’s death on Monday morning, although Jacksonville television stations had already reported the death on Saturday.

Bike%20Derailleur%20Credit.jpgThe driver of the car that hit the bicycle did not stop and there were no eyewitnesses to the hit and run accident. Police are still in search of the driver of the car, and have asked that anyone who knows anything about the accident to come forward.