Florida Motor Vehicle GuideJanuary 30, 2023 | Category: Automobile Accidents | Share
As a driver in Florida, the more you know, the safer you can be. This applies to all aspects of driving—from knowing your vehicle to understanding the leading risks for vehicle accidents and accident-related injuries.
It is important to know what to do after an accident as well. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are behind the wheel, there is still a chance that you will be injured in an accident due to factors beyond your control. When this happens, knowing what steps to take (and what mistakes to avoid) is crucial for recovering the financial compensation you deserve. For an overview of what you need to know after a collision, you can read our Complete Guide to Recovery.
What else do you need to know as a driver in Florida? This Florida Motor Vehicle Guide covers everything you need to know about:
- Florida’s Traffic Laws
- Vehicle Safety Features
- Road and Highway Safety
- Common Causes of Vehicle Collisions in Florida
- Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Collision
Florida’s Traffic Laws
How much do you know about Florida’s traffic laws? While most drivers are familiar with the basics, many do not have a clear understanding of how the law applies in all scenarios. Below are some common scenarios and the laws that apply:
Who Has the Right of Way at Intersections?
When you approach an intersection that is controlled by a stop light, you know to stop if the light is red (or yellow) and proceed through the intersection if the light is green. But what if the intersection doesn’t have a stop light? If you and another driver get there at the same time, who has the right of way?
The short answer is, “It depends.” At a four-way stop, if one driver arrives just before another, the driver who got there first has the right of way. If they get there at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right. There are different rules for intersections with no lights or signs, and roundabouts also have some unique rules.
Learn more: Who Has the Right of Way at Intersections?
What Are Florida’s Laws for Driving at Night?
Driving at night presents some unique risks. While driving at night doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) dangerous, several factors can increase your risk of being involved in a collision after dark. To mitigate the risks of driving in the dark, Florida has enacted several laws focused specifically on nighttime driving.
Learn more: Florida Law for Driving at Night
When Is It Legal (and Safe) to Pass?
Passing another vehicle can be necessary in a variety of circumstances. But, passing isn’t always legal, and passing illegally can be extremely dangerous. Not only do Florida’s passing laws exist for a reason, but drivers expect their fellow motorists to follow those laws. For example, if a driver is passing in the oncoming traffic lane with a solid yellow line, oncoming drivers might not be expecting (or prepared for) a vehicle headed directly their way. As a result, all Florida drivers need to follow the state’s passing laws at all times.
Learn more: When Is It Safe to Pass Another Vehicle?
What Are Florida’s Tailgating Laws?
Tailgating is against the law in Florida. It is a “primary offense,” which means that the police can stop someone for tailgating even if they aren’t speeding or breaking any other laws.
The reason for this is that tailgating can also be extremely dangerous. When a driver is following too closely, not only does the driver not have enough room to stop, but their forward visibility is also limited. These factors combine to result in a high number of tailgating accidents in Florida every year.
Learn more: Tailgating is Illegal in Florida and Dangerous
What Are Florida’s Vision and Hearing Requirements?
Florida law establishes vision and hearing requirements for all licensed drivers. Drivers who have impaired vision must wear glasses or contacts while driving, and drivers who are hearing impaired must either wear a hearing aid or meet certain vehicle equipment requirements.
Driving without adequate visibility is undoubtedly dangerous, but many people aren’t aware that the inability to hear a driver’s surroundings can significantly increase his or her risk of being involved in a collision as well. Yet, studies have shown that this is clearly the case—and loud stereos, loud exhausts, and headphones can also increase drivers’ accident risk.
Learn more: The Importance of Good Sight and Hearing When Driving
Vehicle Safety Features
Many modern vehicles are loaded with safety features. From assisted braking technology to autonomous driving software, many of these features are relatively new. But, some of the most important safety features—like seatbelts and airbags—have been around for a long time. Unfortunately, while all of these safety features can help prevent accidents and injuries, they don’t always work as intended.
Along with knowing your vehicle’s safety features, vehicle maintenance is also important. If your car, truck, or SUV isn’t in good operating condition, it might not be able to protect you from a serious collision.
Seat belts save lives. This is undisputed based on decades’ worth of data. Buckling up keeps you secure inside your vehicle in the event of a collision and helps ensure that you are in a safe position when your vehicle’s airbags inflate. But, for a seat belt to do its job, it must fit properly. This means that drivers, passengers, and parents should be sure to adjust their (and their children’s) seat belts so that they lay across the chest where they are supposed to.
Learn more: What Are the Consequences of Not Wearing Seat Belts?
While modern cars, trucks, and SUVs are designed with rollover prevention in mind, many other vehicles (and older SUVs in particular) present high risks for rolling over. Rollover accidents can be extremely dangerous, and in these accidents, it is imperative that the vehicle’s other safety features work how they’re supposed to.
Learn more: Florida Rollover Accidents Have Higher Fatality Rates Than Other Accidents
Headlights on a vehicle serve two important purposes. Not only do they help drivers see in the dark and in bad weather conditions, but they also increase drivers’ visibility to other motorists.
While high beams can help with visibility in many circumstances, they can also impair oncoming drivers’ visibility. Similarly, while Florida now allows drivers to use their hazard lights in heavy rain, turning on a vehicle’s hazard lights can confuse other drivers. Having the hazards on also prevents drivers from signaling—which can be more dangerous than driving without hazards in many cases.
Learn more: When to Use Vehicle Lights
Anti-lock brakes (ABS) were invented in the 1960s. They work by preventing vehicles’ tires from skidding under heavy braking. But, for drivers who have never had to use ABS, it can be an unnerving experience the first time. As a result, knowing how your vehicle’s ABS system works is important for staying safe when you need to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.
Learn more: Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS): How They Work
Road and Highway Safety
In addition to knowing the law and your vehicle, it is also important to spot safety risks on the road. Knowing the roads where you are driving, knowing what the lane markings mean, and learning when it is—and isn’t—safe to pass are critical for keeping yourself (and others) safe on the road.
Backing Up Safely
Errors while backing up lead to thousands of vehicle collisions every year. Many of these errors are extremely simple—and completely avoidable. For example, backing up without looking, assuming that no one else is coming, and going too fast while backing up are all leading causes of collisions involving vehicles traveling in reverse.
To back up safely, drivers can check their mirrors and blind spots and use their vehicles’ cameras in most cases. But, sometimes, additional caution is necessary.
Learn more: Tips for Safely Backing Up to Avoid Accidents
Knowing What Pavement Markings Mean
Along with traffic signs and signals, pavement markings play a crucial role in controlling traffic and keeping motorists safe on Florida’s roads. But pavement markings are only effective when drivers know what they mean. Unfortunately, the data show that far too many drivers in Florida lack a clear understanding of the state’s pavement markings.
Learn more: What Do Pavement Markings Mean?
Florida has many dangerous highways. In fact, some of the state’s highways are among the most dangerous in the country. This includes I-75.
When driving on the highway, it is important to always remain attentive to your surroundings. Distractions, fatigue, aggressive driving, and recklessness are all common factors in highway accidents. Knowing how to spot the signs of these dangerous driving behaviors can help you stay safe (and keep your loved ones safe) on the road.
Learn more: I-75 - One of the 5 Most Dangerous Highways
Parking Lot Safety
While parking lot accidents don’t often have the severe consequences of highway accidents, they can still lead to expensive repair bills, medical bills, and other losses. If parking lot owners prioritized safety (and if all drivers followed some basic safety practices), this would significantly reduce the number of parking lot accidents in Florida.
Learn More: Who's Responsible if There's No Lighting In a Parking Lot?
Florida has more motorcycle riders than almost any other state in the country. While motorcycle riders need to take responsibility for their safety, drivers need to respect riders’ rights to share the road. Looking left before turning right, checking blind spots before merging, and giving motorcycle riders plenty of buffer room (i.e., not tailgating motorcycles) are just a few ways drivers can avoid putting motorcycle riders in danger.
Learn more: When Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
Watching Out for Dump Trucks
While dump trucks are essential to Florida’s construction businesses, they present many risks for motorists. Not only are dump trucks heavy and hard to stop, but they also have limited visibility, and material can fly out of the top of the truck or spill onto the road. With this in mind, it is important to be cautious whenever you encounter a dump truck—whether on the highway or in your neighborhood. When dump truck drivers speed, this magnifies the risks involved.
Learn more: Speeding Dump Trucks in Residential Neighborhoods – A Fatality Waiting to Happen
Common Causes of Vehicle Collisions in Florida
As we discussed in the introduction to this Florida Motor Vehicle Guide, no matter how safe a driver is, you cannot protect yourself from all risks on the road. Vehicle collisions are an everyday occurrence in Florida, and many of these collisions result in serious or fatal injuries. While collisions can (and do) result from a variety of causes, some causes are much more common than others.
Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way
While Florida’s right-of-way laws establish what drivers should do when they come to an intersection, it is clear that far too many drivers don’t know or simply ignore the rules. As a result, intersection accidents are common, and when these accidents happen, proving who had the right of way is a key first step toward recovering proper compensation for severe injuries.
Learn more: Who Has the Right-of-Way?
Aggressive drivers injure and kill thousands of people in Florida and across the United States every year. There are many forms of aggressive driving, all of which present unnecessary (and completely avoidable) risks on the road. If you encounter an aggressive driver, it is best to keep your distance, if possible. Let them pass and allow yourself the opportunity to continue on with your day.
Learn more: What Are the Characteristics of An Aggressive Driver?
The most common form of aggressive driving is speeding. Not only is speeding among the most common traffic violations in Florida, but it is also among the most common causes of serious vehicle accidents. This is because speeding entails three separate risks: (i) speeding vehicles take longer to stop, (ii) speeding vehicles cause collisions with greater force, and (iii) speeding drivers are more likely to lose control on the road.
Learn more: The Dangers of Speeding
While most people only think about their tires when the “low air pressure” light comes on in their vehicle, overinflated tires can be just as dangerous as underinflated ones. Overinflation is a leading cause of tire blowouts, and in Florida’s summer heat, even a slight amount of overinflation can lead to a sudden and unexpected blowout on the road. Tire blowouts can be dangerous not only for the driver of the vehicle that experiences the blowout, but for other drivers in the vicinity as well.
Learn more: Catastrophic Accidents Caused by Inadequate Tire Inflation
Vehicle defects are far more common than most people realize. When auto manufacturers discover defects, they are supposed to issue recalls and fix the issue as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, recalls often come too late. If a vehicle defect leads to an accident or accident-related injuries, the manufacturer can—and should—be held accountable under Florida law.
Learn more: What Happens When Auto Makers Do Not Recall Defective Vehicles in a Timely Manner?
Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Collision
Knowing what to do when you are involved in a vehicle collision can help you maximize your recovery. This will help you avoid unnecessary financial strain, and it will help you get back on your feet—and back on the road—as quickly as possible. With this in mind, here is some important information about protecting your legal rights after a vehicle collision in Florida.
Protecting Your Rights After a Head-On Collision
Head-on collisions are among the most dangerous types of auto accidents for obvious reasons. The forces involved can destroy vehicles, and they can leave drivers and passengers of both vehicles facing life-altering or life-threatening injuries.
While head-on collisions are dangerous, they are also avoidable. As a result, victims and their families will often be entitled to significant financial compensation when these accidents happen.
Learn more: Protecting the Rights of Head-On Collision Victims
Suing for Negligent Entrustment After a Vehicle Collision
While negligent drivers can be held accountable when they cause serious accidents, they aren’t the only ones who can be held responsible in many cases. Under Florida’s “negligent entrustment” law, vehicle owners and negligent drivers’ employers can be held liable in many cases. Since many drivers in Florida do not have liability insurance (and, among those that do, many only have minimal coverage), filing a negligent entrustment claim can be crucial for recovering the financial compensation drivers, passengers, and their families deserve.
Learn more: Suing for Negligent Entrustment in Florida
Do You Need Help After a Vehicle Collision in Florida?
If you need help after a vehicle collision in Florida, our team can determine the cause of the accident and fight to recover the financial compensation you and your family deserve. To discuss your legal rights with attorney Randall L. Spivey in confidence as soon as possible, please call Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. at 888-477-4839 or reach out to us online at SpiveyLaw.com now.