The National Safety Council estimates at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes — at least 1.6 million yearly — involve drivers using cellphones, including at least 200,000 texting drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found texting drivers take their eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds, meaning that if a driver were going 55 mph, the vehicle would cross the entire length of a football field without the driver looking up.
NORTH NAPLES — This story has been edited from its original version.
The widow of a 62-year-old North Naples bicyclist killed four years ago by a man who allegedly was texting while driving has settled her lawsuit with the driver and his employer for an undisclosed sum.
In what was the first texting-while-driving lawsuit filed in Collier County, Margaret Caskey in January 2010 sued Lawrence A. Daniels, 42, of North Naples, a pharmaceutical representative, and his employer, Astellas Pharma U.S. Inc., which owned the car.
In a related traffic case, Daniels was found guilty of failing to yield at a stop sign in the crash on Aug. 12, 2008, which resulted in the death of James L. Caskey Jr. He died returning home from his daily two-hour morning bike ride in his Island Walk neighborhood.
The lawsuit was dismissed in August after the sides reached a confidential settlement. The case had implications for other lawsuits because Collier Circuit Judge Hugh Hayes ruled Margaret Caskey could seek punitive damages, which are meant to punish, set an example and deter similar wrongdoing. The 2nd District Court of Appeal let Hayes' ruling stand, refusing to hear the defendants' appeal.
"Mrs. Caskey wanted some good to come out of the case," said Caskey's attorney, James Fox of Roetzel and Andress in Naples. "If even one person does not text and drive as a result, she will be happy."
Margaret Caskey declined to comment, as did Miami attorney Myron Shapiro, who represented the defendants.
James Caskey, a former marathon runner, was a retired high school teacher from Pennsylvania and a devout Catholic who went to church daily and wanted to volunteer or teach at Ave Maria.
Caskey was returning home at 9 a.m. after his daily ride around his neighborhood on his distinctive, three-wheel recumbent racing bike, which had a small red flag on a pole above it. Daniels, who also lived in Island Walk, was ticketed for failing to yield at a stop sign and was found guilty after a brief trial in which his attorney suggested no one could prove he was the driver or where Caskey was.
The Florida Highway Patrol investigation didn't look into texting as a cause. After a brief trial, Collier County Judge Rob Crown fined Daniels $1,000, plus $78 in court costs, and suspended his license for six months.
Fox requested Daniels' cellphone records for his calls and texts, matched them up with the timing of the 911 calls, then filed the lawsuit in January 2010, just as the Florida Legislature began considering a law banning texting and cellphone use while driving.
For the last three years, texting and cellphone-while-driving bills have failed to gain the Legislature's approval.