There were 316,943 reported car accidents in Florida in 2013, involving more half a million drivers. These statistics, which are based on federal crash data, reflect an average of about 868 crashes per day for the entire year — an increase of nearly 13 percent from 2012. In nearly half of those crashes, at least one person was injured or killed.
Few traffic safety issues have received more attention in recent years than distracted driving. Unfortunately, despite the constant efforts of educators, caregivers and lawmakers to raise awareness and discourage distracted driving, the dangerous practice continues more or less unabated.
One of the most common examples of distracted driving is also one of the most dangerous: texting while driving. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 660,000 drivers are texting or otherwise using handheld mobile devices at any given time during daylight hours.
Unfortunately, this risky habit often comes at a steep price for the drivers themselves as well as others on the road. Federal crash data shows that distraction-related car accidents claimed 3,328 lives in 2012, as well as an estimated 421,000 non-fatal injuries.
Like distracted driving, drunk driving is another stubborn traffic safety issues that continues to occur despite well-known risks. Nationwide, alcohol is a factor in nearly one out of every three traffic deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 people die on an average day due to accidents caused by drunk drivers — the equivalent of about one death every 51 minutes.
In Florida alone, there were 697 traffic deaths involving alcohol impairment in 2012, or nearly two per day. As high as these numbers may seem, federal crash data shows that the per-capita rate of drunk driving deaths in Florida has actually declined by about one-third over the past decade, to about 3.6 drunk driving deaths per 100,000 people.
Road rage and aggressive driving are on the rise, according to the National Safety Council, due in part to increased road congestion and decreased enforcement of traffic laws in many parts of the country. One of the most commonly seen examples of aggressive driving is speeding, which is more dangerous than many drivers realize.
When a driver exceeds the speed limit, or drives too fast for the weather or road conditions, his or her chances of being involved in a crash increase substantially. This is because driving too fast decreases a driver's ability to react to hazards as they arise and to safely maneuver the vehicle around turns or obstacles in the road. In addition, when a vehicle collision does occur, speeding increases the force of impact and thus makes serious injuries or death more likely. Nationwide, excessive speed was a factor in about 10,000 fatal car accidents in 2012, or about 30 percent of all traffic deaths that year.
Examples of other forms of aggressive driving include following too closely, turning or changing lanes without signaling, and cutting in front of other drivers. When someone drives aggressively in a deliberate attempt to antagonize, provoke or "one up" another driver, it is referred to as road rage. Whether intentional or simply careless, aggressive driving is dangerous and puts lives at risk.
Although it may sound relatively innocuous in comparison to other risky driving behavior, research and crash data both show that drowsy driving can be highly risky. Specifically, sleep deprivation results in:
- Decreased attentiveness
- Prolonged reaction times
- Impaired judgment and decision-making abilities
In fact, some studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes levels of impairment that are comparable to that of alcohol consumption. For example, Australian research cited by the National Sleep Foundation shows that a driver who has been awake for 18 hours undergoes an impairment of driving skills equivalent to that experienced by a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 — and at 24 hours without sleep, that increases to the equivalent of a .10 BAC. The legal limit for drunk driving in Florida is .08, as it is throughout the United States.
Conservative estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that driver fatigue is a factor in about 100,000 crashes per year, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries. Other studies suggest that the effects of drowsy driving may be far greater, contributing to as many as 6,000 traffic fatalities per year. In a survey conducted by the NSF in 2005, more than one-third of all drivers reported falling asleep while driving, and that about one in every eight admitted to nodding off behind the wheel at least once per month.
Nationally, pedestrian accidents have been on an upward trend in recent years, and Florida is no exception. In 2013, the overall number of pedestrians crashes increased by about 2 percent, while pedestrian fatalities spiked by 5 percent.
Older adults — those age 70 or above — face a higher risk of being killed in a pedestrian crash than members of any other age group. Not only do elderly pedestrians often face a higher risk of being struck by a vehicle than younger individuals, sometimes due to factors such as decreased mobility and vision loss, but they are also more likely to suffer fatal injuries in the event of a crash.
Thus, considering Florida's relatively high elderly population, it may come as no surprise that a larger-than-average share of the nation's pedestrian fatalities occur here. In fact, according to the Governor's Highway Association's Spotlight on Highway Safety, about one-third of all pedestrian deaths in the U.S. occur in just three states: Florida, California and Texas.
Crash Liability And Compensation
When someone in Florida is involved in a car accident that is caused by someone else's mistake, recklessness or wrongdoing, he or she may be able to recover monetary compensation through the legal system. Oftentimes, by filing a personal injury lawsuit, injured crash victims are able to recover financial compensation to help offset the costs they incur as a result of their injuries, such as lost income and medical expenses. Similarly, when someone dies as a result of a crash, that person's family members may be entitled to a financial settlement.
Talk to a lawyer at your earliest opportunity if you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash. To preserve your legal rights and keep your options open, it is important that you seek legal advice before accepting a settlement offer from the insurance company or providing a statement about the crash. A lawyer with experience in car accident cases can help you evaluate your options and aid you in pursuing the maximum settlement amount available under the circumstances.