Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
July 15, 2018

Distracted Driver Injures Two South Florida Horseback Riders, Kills Horses

This past Sunday, Coral Springs resident James Rink (24), says he had dropped his cellphone in his car when he crashed into two horseback riders, an instructor and her 9-year-old student, on Southwest Ranches’ Griffin Road. Both horses died in the accident.

Although Florida is ranked the second worst U.S. state behind Louisiana for distracted driving accidents, state lawmakers continue to put off passing laws that prohibit cell phone use and driving.

We can only wonder how many more injuries and deaths it will take before Florida joins the rest of the nation in protecting our roads and fighting cell phone use while driving.

Driver Crashed into Horseback Riders While Reaching for Cellphone

American Horse Trails volunteer riding instructor Joy Shupnik (62) and her 9-year-old student were thrown from their horses when Coral Springs resident James Rink’s 2008 Toyota Tundra collided into them along the 19800 block of Griffin Road.

Joy Shupnik and the unnamed girl were taken to Hollywood’s Memorial Regional Hospital in serious condition. Shupnick suffered broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, a foot injury, and a concussion. The young girl’s condition has not yet been released. Both horses died as a result of the accident.

Rink told police he had dropped his cellphone and was reaching for it when the crash occurred.

50K Distracted Driving Accidents Per Year on Florida Roads

Last year, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that five distracted driving crashes were happening every hour on Florida roads – nearly 50,000 distracted driving accidents per year – resulting in over 3,400 serious injuries and 233 deaths (around 8% of all car crash-related fatalities).

And Fort Lauderdale roads are some of the most dangerous. In 2016, there were 3,071 injuries and 32 deaths from car crashes in Broward County alone.

Yet Florida remains one of only four U.S. states where police cannot pull drivers over for texting and driving.

Florida Senate Delays Bill Prohibiting Texting and Driving

Earlier this year, Florida’s House of Representatives voted 122 to 2 to pass a bill (SB 90) that would make texting while driving a primary offense, but the Senate didn’t back it and discussions won’t resume until spring of 2019. We can only wonder how many more injuries and deaths will have to occur before this legislation is passed.

Some Senate members are concerned that police will be pulling drivers over for checking their GPS or other smart phone functions – which are not illegal and not included in the definition of “texting.”

But many Floridians are highly disappointed with the Senate’s dismissal of SB 90, and seem perfectly willing to put up with a few additional traffic stops to enhance road safety.

Reading Social Media Most Risky Driver Activity

Reading social media, surfing the internet, viewing email, taking photos, and sending texts (in that order) are among the most distracting cell phone activities for drivers, according to a 2016 State Farm survey.

As far as non-cell phone-related distractions, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that reading, writing, reaching for objects, and staring at something outside of the car for extended periods of time most greatly increase a driver’s risk for accidents.

Investigators of Sunday’s accident are currently looking at other factors that may have contributed to the crash, including whether James Rink may have been speeding. Rink was not injured in the accident and has not been charged as of yet.

Something else to think about: while not a national law, many states are adopting an increase in auto insurance premiums as a penalty for texting while driving. So not only does distracted driving endanger lives, but one may be paying for texting and driving for many years to come.

Ft. Lauderdale injury lawyer John Uustal represents seriously injured victims of distracted driving and their families.

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