Usually, when Florida leads the nation, it is a good thing. But there are some statistics that you never want your state to lead the nation in, especially those that have to do with car accidents. By what can be described as a every significant margin, it appears that Florida is leading the entire nation in the increase in car accidents since 2014.
Deaths are Up Nationally
According to the National Safety Council, car accident deaths were 9% higher nationally through the first six months of this year, than they were the first six months of last year. If you go back to 2014, car accident deaths are up 18%.
An estimated 19,100 people have been killed on U.S. roads in car accidents in 2016 so far, and over 2 billion people have been seriously injured in car accidents during that same period. Based on the upward tick in the numbers, the National Safety Council is now warning that an unprecedented number of fatalities may occur during the labor day weekend.
This is all coming after 2015’s statistics, which made it the deadliest year for car accidents since 2008.
Experts Have Theories as to the Increase
Still, given the improvements and emphasis on car safety, many experts are puzzled as to why the increase is so significant. One theory that would account for the increased rates nationally is the economy. As the job market improves, more people are on the road, driving back and forth from work. As people gain employment, there is more money for them to own cars, and take trips in those cars. Historically, during periods of depression and recession, traffic fatalities have always declined, going as far back as the Great Depression, and including the oil embargo of the 1970s. Thus, many experts believe that although we are seeing an increase, it is in step with the improving economy.
Another factor is gas prices, which are consistently getting lower. And as that happens, more people drive. In fact, in 2015, there was overall a 3.5% increase in the number of miles driven by U.S. drivers, and so far in 2016, there is a 3.3% increase again in the number of miles driven.
And as we have written about before, two years is an eternity when it comes to technology. In that time, the increase in cell phone usage, and apps that are used while driving, as well as the technology that is placed inside of cars as part of infotainment systems, have flourished.
The problem has given rise to its own term—“distracted driving”—which can account for situations where a car’s driver is preoccupied with screens in the car, or their own cell phone, or even with using the knobs and controls of today’s high tech cars, which often feature complex technology just to use basic functions of the car, like the air conditioner, radio, or transmission.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does note that many of the deaths accounted for in 2015 came from drivers who were not using seat belts, and that the number of accidents involving the use of alcohol is steadily increasing every year.
Florida Leads the Nation in Increased Car Accident Deaths
Since 2014, Florida has lead the nation in the increase in car accidents that result in fatalities. Florida has seen a 43% increase since that time, much higher than the second place state, Georgia, which has increased by 34% and Indiana, with a 33% increase. California and North Carolina are right behind, with 31% and 26%, respectively.
Florida has also been slow to adopt laws to protect drivers. For example, although some states have passed laws to restrict the usage of cell phones and texting while driving a car, Florida has not made any meaningful headway to pass laws to restrict the practice. The only law in Florida that outlaws texting while driving is a law that makes it a second-tier offense. This means that a driver can only be cited for texting while driving if they are being pulled over and cited for a separate violation. In other words, the fact that a driver is distracted by texting while driving cannot, by itself, be a basis for police to stop a driver and issue a citation.
Florida’s Unique Demographics May Contribute to Accidents
Florida also has a flourishing tourism industry, an industry directly affected by an improving economy. In many cases, tourists may be uncertain of where they are going, or more likely to be lost, and therefore, distracted, looking at maps or GPS devices.
The tourism often means that roads are crowded during all hours of the day and night, and that recreational activities like drinking, may be occur more often than in other states. Combine this with a relative lack of public transportation, and Florida’s significant yearly increase makes sense.
Florida’s weather also plays a part. Unlike many states, which may have numerous days in a year where driving is just not possible, or is at least significantly reduced due to snow or similar inclement weather, Florida’s roads are open and available almost every day of the year. And Florida’s wet climate does not make the roads any safer.
In the end, being safe on the roads means being careful, taking care of yourself, and paying attention on the roads. But even with the best attention and precautions, accidents can happen. If you are involved in an automobile accident, contact the accident attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi for a free consultation to discuss your case.