In less than 24 hours, South Florida roadways have witnesses four motor vehicle accidents which caused the death of six people. While the number of traffic accident fatalities is in somewhat decline in the State overall, last weekend’s events are a brutal reminder that traffic safety remains the greatest cause for unnatural deaths in Florida.
In Miami Beach, a woman was killed while crossing the street at Rue Granville and Normandy Drive. She was struck by a car on Sunday night and was emergently transported to the hospital. She succumbed to her serious injures at the hospital.
Earlier that day, two women crossing Alligator Alley were killed when they were struck by an SUV near mile marker 63. According to the driver of the vehicle who struck them, the police said the deceased were walking along the median of Alligator Alley and began crossing the road in the direction of their car that was parked in a rest area along the road. The driver of the SUV was unable to avoid them and after hitting the windshield, they both died at the scene.
In Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Highway Patrol responded to another traffic fatality. According to investigators and witnesses, a person had stopped his car on Interstate 75. A tractor-trailer failed to see the stopped car and rammed his truck into the car, killing its occupant who was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Finally in Miami-Dade County, Duane Billie, 37, drove into oncoming traffic on Tamiami Trail and hit another car. In the other vehicle, Teresa Osceloa, 54, was driving eastbound. Billie crashed his car head-on into Teresa’s vehicle and both driver were killed upon impact. Both decedents were Miccosukee tribal members, and Billie was an off-duty Miccosukee police captain.
Sadly, these tragedies that took the lives of 6 people collectively were all avoidable. Some are caused by distracted drivers, others by people taking chances rather than slowing down and avoiding danger. As a result of empirical bad behaviors and bad driving by drivers, Florida is one of the deadliest state in the country, and while the trend over the last 20 years is overall positive, the year-by-year numbers are a cause for concern.
In 2012, there were 281,321 traffic accidents throughout the state of Florida. That is more than any year in the last 20 years. That translates in over 770 accidents per day. Thankfully, the large majority of these are non-fatal accidents. Among them, almost 7 accidents per day will involve a fatality. In 2012, there were 2,430 fatalities on the roads throughout the State of Florida. In a vacuum, that number is quite encouraging when compared to the 2,999 fatalities in 2000, or the 3,533 in 2005. But experts sound the alarm and point to the counter-intuitive trend these numbers show. With car safety improving, and the Florida legislature passing tougher laws, the trend fails to go down as rapidly as it should, and as it was expected.
The outlier the latest fatalities statistics show is the new and generalized behavior adopted by most drivers in the country and also in Florida: the use of cell phones while driving. In the last decade, the apparition of smart phones has been attributed to causing a very large share of traffic accidents and fatalities.
It is too early to say that cell phone and distracted driving behaviors were the cause or at least contributing factors to the six fatalities that occurred this past weekend in South Florida. But the fact that since 2010, the number of smartphone users has almost tripled, goes to show that behavior modification of drivers will soon become, if it hasn’t already, the number one concern to challenge in the name of road safety.