Alarming photo highlights dangers of distracted driving

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A photo of a driver on Highway 301 last week is being touted by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office as a wake-up call about the dangers of distracted driving.

Last week, a deputy spotted a driver in a red vehicle traveling around 50 mph while reading an iPad and not wearing a seatbelt on roads that were already wet from recent rain.

The deputy was riding in the passenger seat along with another deputy in a large clearly marked Sheriff’s office truck. And yet, this distracted driver did not see them. The deputy waved at him and it took a while to get his attention to warn him of the dangers of his actions.

Lt. Dan Tutko with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said, “After about a minute, they were able to get his attention and alert him that he was violating the law.”

Eventually, the driver saw them, and sheepishly put the iPad down and put on a seat belt.

Officials say since the Sarasota County deputy spotted the man in Manatee County outside their jurisdiction, they didn’t cite him. Instead they let him go with a warning but it could’ve been very dangerous.

“Very selfish act on his part,” said Tutko. “It could’ve caused an accident where he himself was hurt or other people on the roadway.”

Officials are using the photo as a reminder to drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Here in Florida, texting and driving and other forms of distracted driving are secondary offenses. But it’s still important to notify law enforcement if you spot someone who is paying more attention to their devices than on the road.

“Driving is a challenge in and of itself and when you throw in the phone and you throw in other things into it, it’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Lt. Tutko.

Government figures show in 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. So officials say don’t chance it. Put the device down and focus on the road.

Tutko said, “Put down the phone and take back your drive.”

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