Florida is notorious for large numbers of car accidents. Between heavy traffic and reckless drivers, the Sunshine State poses a significant risk of motor vehicle crashes. Major cities like Miami see incredible traffic surges during the fall and winter, when seasonal citizens and tourists visit to escape harsh Northern winters. This year, the National Safety Council (NSC) predicts that Florida will see its deadliest driving year since 2007.
Measuring Florida’s Traffic Fatalities
The NSC released a study showing a 43% increase in traffic deaths in Florida in the first half of 2016 compared to 2014. In 2014, between January and June, Florida saw 1,114 traffic deaths. This year, there were 1,590 deaths. The increase makes Florida the number-one state for traffic death increases in the nation. During the first six months of the year, 96 deaths occurred in Palm Beach County alone.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 374,443 total car crashes in Florida in 2015. This was a substantial rise from the 344,469 crashes in 2014. So far, 2016 has seen 273,363 crashes in Florida. With more than 30,000 car accidents occurring per month, the state will likely meet or exceed last year’s totals. Drivers in the 20–24 age range are at the greatest risk of getting into an accident in Florida, followed by 25- to 29-year-olds. Younger drivers are more prone to distracted driving, particularly due to cell phones. We created a data visualization breaking down the Florida car accident statistics, here.
According to Miami-Dade County crash data over a six-year period, more than one in every six vehicle crashes in Florida occurred in the Miami region. Miami sees about 4,000 car accidents per month (around 50,000 annually). Miami-Dade County averages more than 300 motor vehicle accident fatalities every year. Car accidents happen as a result of many different circumstances, from driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol to texting and driving. However, the recent increase in car accidents may be attributable to a different factor: increased traffic.
Why the Sudden Increase in Accidents?
Officials from the NSC believe that the current increase in Florida’s fatal car crashes is the rise in traffic on our roadways. Ken Kolosh, the manager of NSC’s statistics group, says the upward trend in car accidents has gone on for 18 months, since 2015. Kolosh connects the rise with an increase in Florida’s economy, a drop in unemployment rates, and low gas prices. All of these factors come together to encourage more people to visit Florida.
Fewer motor vehicle crashes and fatalities took place during the national recession, when people did not spend as much money on traveling and vacations. Less miles traveled results in fewer traffic accidents. There were also fewer commercial trucks on the road. Between January and June of 2016, motorists drove 1.58 trillion miles. This increase in drive time unfortunately translates into an increase in accidents and crash fatalities.
Throughout history, large reductions in traffic fatalities have corresponded with economic conditions. The recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s also translated into fewer traffic accidents. As Florida’s economy gets back into its full, pre-recession swing, residents can expect to see consistent rises in car accidents. Across the nation, there was an 8% increase in traffic fatalities in 2015. The NSC warns that 2016 will see even higher numbers.
In lieu of these surprising statistics, traffic safety officials caution drivers to stay safe on Florida’s roadways. Remain within posted speed limits, put phones away while behind the wheel, and never drink and drive. Traffic safety begins with Florida’s drivers. Residents and visitors who are more aware of the upward trend in car accidents are more likely to drive safely. Protect yourself and those around you by taking due care when you hit the road.