In Florida a car is a “dangerous instrumentality. Florida common law holds that owners of motor vehicles may be held liable for damages suffered by third parties as the result of negligent operation of their vehicles when the vehicle is driven with their knowledge and consent. The theory behind this common law is that motor vehicles are dangerous by their very use and, as such, are inherently hazardous, having the potential to cause serious personal injuries if negligently operated. See Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson, 80 Fla. 441, 469 [Fla. 1920].
With the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle comes great responsibility. There are precautions and rules that everyone behind the wheel should acknowledge and follow, in order for all of us to remain as safe as possible on public roadways.
Rules of the road are the most obvious safety precautions. The way you drive and the habits you adopt, both good or bad, affect everyone using the roadway. Bad habits simply are an accident waiting to happen:
- Failing to maintain control over your vehicle at all times;
- Jack-rabbit starts from lights;
- Weaving in and out of traffic;
- Rolling stops;
- Impaired driving.
All of these are poor driving habits, but there are also conditions ripe for an accident, which simply go unnoticed by drivers:
- Check your tires regularly for wear and inflation — under or over inflated tires will fail to hold the roadway;
- Check your brakes — failing brakes or problem brakes may cause you to be unable to avoid a collision;
- Check your windshield wipers — smeared windows, especially combined with direct sun or headlights, can obscure your ability to see the roadway;
- Check your brake lights — people driving behind you must know when you are stopping;
- Check your turn signals and use them;
- Check engine belts — the loss of power steering or overheating at high speeds could cause disastrous problems with control over the vehicle.
Advanced preparation for the unknown is also critical in auto safety. Consider keeping the following items with you in your car in the event of an emergency situation:
- Driver’s license
- Insurance verification card
- Most current car registration
- Note paper
- Pen or pencil
- First aid kit
- Small hammer
- Jumper cables
- DC tire compressor or tire pump
- Cell phone
- Telephone numbers (car service assistance, police, highway patrol, etc.)
Safety for your passengers is your responsibility as well. Everyone in the car should be seat belted in and children should have the proper booster seat or infant carrier. Talking on the cell phone and texting must be limited to when you are parked safely and not driving. Remember, driving is a big responsibility — you hold in your hands your life, the lives of your passengers and the lives of others on the roadway.
So think before you get behind the wheel and use a few simple safety measures to make sure your driving experience is a fun and safe one for everyone in your vehicle and on the road.
Visit our Vehicle Accident Checklist website for information about being ready for the unfortunate event of an accident.