Recently, the National Safety Council released some troubling statistics regarding rates of traffic fatalities in Florida. According to this data, in the first half of 2016 Florida has seen a shocking 43% increase in car accident deaths than during the same period in 2014.
Sarasota NBC affiliate WFLA reports that between January and June 2016, nearly 1,600 people have died in auto accidents in Florida, and the Sunshine State is not the only state to see such a sharp increase in traffic fatalities. The national rate of deadly car accidents is also rising, with roughly 19,100 people killed so far this year and associated costs totaling $205 billion. According to the NSC, this increase in car accident deaths has been a national trend since 2014, though the deadliest driving year in U.S. history was 2007.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Kenn Watson told reporters that, though saddening, the statistics released by the NSC are not a surprise to him. He says, “Unfortunately, we have fatal car crashes weekly.” Trooper Watson says that there are a number of factors which may contribute to the high rate of fatal wrecks in Florida. Our weather makes Florida a vacation destination for many, and this could contribute to distracted driving or driving under the influence, as well as a population increase that translates to more dangerous roads. On a more national level, Trooper Watson says that technology is definitely taking a toll on road safety: between use of cell phones while driving and over-reliance on such devices as back-up cameras and lane-change sensors, many drivers just aren’t paying as much attention to the roads these days.
Only last weekend, officers with the Florida Highway Patrol arrived at the scene of an accident in which the actions of one reckless driver caused the deaths of four men. The Panama City News Herald reports that late Friday night, Cody Austin Shirah, 21, ran a stop sign at the intersection of John Pitts Road and Pinetree Road and crashed into a van carrying a team of Ohio softball players who were in town for a tournament. Two men, Anthony Gouge, 30, and Eric Young, 25, were pronounced dead at the scene. Two more men, William Gouge II, 29 (Anthony’s brother), and Josh Martin, 33, died from their injuries on Sunday. One more softball player remains in critical condition.
As officers work to investigate what caused Shirah to run the stop sign and whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the wreck, it seems appropriate to echo the advice of Trooper Watson. He says that so many accidents and fatalities could be avoided if drivers would only remain vigilant and situationally aware. Trooper Watson says, “I beg of you, just pretend there’s a trooper behind you all the time. Everyone will start driving better, (and) we’re gonna see these fatalities plummet.”
No matter how many Florida Highway Patrol officers cruise our roads to intercept dangers and encourage safe driving, the fact is that all drivers face a near-constant risk of a collision. If you or your loved one was injured or killed in a car accident in Florida, you may be able to hold negligent parties accountable. To learn more about compensation in auto accident lawsuits, please contact our personal injury lawyers in Florida for a free consultation.