SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) The National Safety Council has released some concerning figures on traffic fatalities in Florida.
According to the NSC, in the first six months of 2016, nearly 1,600 people died in traffic crashes in the sunshine state. That’s a 43 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2014.
In fact, nationwide, the number of deadly traffic crashes are rising. Across the country an estimated 19,100 people have been killed and the total estimated cost of the deaths and injuries is $205 billion.
The NSC says this upward trend across the country began in late 2014 and shows no signs of decreasing. The agency says if the trend continues, the US may see its deadliest driving year since 2007.
Trooper Kenn Watson with the Florida Highway Patrol is not surprised by these numbers. In fact, when News Channel 8 contacted him, he was on the scene of a deadly accident involving a semi-truck and a compact car. “Unfortunately we have fatal car crashes weekly,” said Trooper Watson.
“We are seeing more fatalities but it is because we are a booming industry down here,” Watson explained.
Watson cited a number of factors. He sats Florida’s beautiful weather and tourist attractions have people from all over the world driving on Florida roadways. With a large population, that can lead to a large number of crashes.
He also blamed distractions such as smartphones, and he also said many drivers are being too reliant on advanced car technologies such as backup cameras and lane-change sensors.
“It is critical that you do not rely on the sensors within your vehicle…They are there to assist you, not to take over,” Watson said.
The Florida Highway Patrol is very aware of the spike in vehicle crashes. They are placing as many troopers as possible on the roads to help curb the problem.
But they encourage Florida drivers to use situational awareness every time they’re behind the wheel.
“I beg of you, just pretend there’s a trooper behind you all the time, everyone will start driving better, we’re gonna see these fatalities plummet,” said Watson.