If you’re joining the thousands of other Floridians traveling by car this holiday season, it’s important to be thinking about more than getting out of town as you hit the Florida roads.

Keeping auto safety in mind and avoiding distracted driving can help reduce auto accidents during the high-traffic holiday season.

Advanced technologies have made cars safer than ever in recent years, so it would be logical to think that roadway crashes and deaths would be decreasing.

Unfortunately, vehicle crashes and fatalities are actually rising sharply across the country.

Auto accidents have increased 14 percent over the past two years — the biggest increase in more than 50 years, according to the National Safety Council.

And in Florida, motor vehicle fatalities have increased an alarming 43 percent since 2014, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Distracted driving and the ubiquitous use of smartphones behind the wheel is one of the leading causes for this deadly trend.

Too many drivers are still texting, talking, surfing the web and using social media and apps on their smartphones while driving.

And with greater numbers of distracted drivers on the roads over the holidays, the potential for accidents increases.

As a member of the FL DNT TXT N DRV COALITION, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America hears far too many stories of families devastated by someone driving who is texting behind the wheel.

That is why in 2018, we are asking Florida lawmakers to pass a bill that will make texting while driving a primary offense.

We believe it will help save lives in Florida.

In the meantime, we ask Times-Union readers to take a few extra seconds to send any last-minute messages or check apps, and then put your phone down and collect your thoughts.

Eliminating distractions and staying alert to driving conditions and other cars can help keep our roads safe.

From all of us at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, we wish Floridians a happy and safe holiday season.

Logan McFaddin,

Regional Manager,

Property Casualty Insurers Association of America,