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NSC: first responders put at serious risk by distracted drivers

Florida residents should know that crashes involving fire trucks, police cars and ambulances are common; they led to 37 deaths and more than 17,000 injuries in 2013. The trend continues with the first four months of 2019 already seeing the deaths of 16 emergency responders who were struck by vehicles as they helped others on the side of the road.

The National Safety Council and the Emergency Responder Safety Institute conducted a survey to determine just how strong of a link there is between this trend and another dangerous trend: distracted driving. The NSC released the results in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month (which is every April).

Seventy-one percent of respondents said they take photos or videos when they drive past an emergency vehicle. Sixty percent mention it on social media, and 66 percent send an email about it. These distracting activities are insensitive to the stressful situations that first responders grapple with.

Forty percent think of distracted drivers as "just part of the risk" that comes with being a first responder. While 89 percent acknowledge the danger that distracted driving poses to first responders, only 19 percent admitted that their own inattentive driving puts the workers at risk. As for the "Move Over" law meant to protect first responders, 67 percent had heard of it, and 73 percent said they move over.

A collision between a vehicle and a first responder may form the basis for a case under car accident law. Injured first responders may be able to be reimbursed for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other economic and non-economic losses, but it might take a lawyer to make the case a success. A lawyer may negotiate for a settlement with the guilty driver's auto insurance company, litigating if one cannot be achieved.

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