Deadly Roads in the State of Florida

2005 has already been an especially deadly year. More people were killed on Florida roads last month than any previous January on record. There are several traffic safety campaigns underway, but even the experts wonder if anybody’s listening.

Two hundred sixty four people died in traffic crashes in Florida last month, the most ever in the month of January. Part of the problem is Florida’s growing population.

Motorist Peggy Condon says she sees the results firsthand every time she hits the highway.

Peggy says, “Well, there’s just more cars on the road, that’s the problem. More cars on the road.”

Many of the people behind the wheel seem to be ignoring ongoing safety campaigns to fight aggressive and drunk driving and encourage motorists to buckle up. The Florida Highway Patrol can’t point to a single cause of the increase in deaths, but a lack of seat belts was a major factor over the holidays.

LT John Bagnardi of FHP says, “There was an 80 percent non-use in Christmas deaths and a 92 percent non-use in seat belts for New Year’s, so you have to look at those situations and that’s why we push seat belt use so much.”

Advocates are trying new approaches like an in-your-face video where a teen who lost both legs in a crash tells his story.

K. Wilder designed the campaign along with several others targeting minority communities. She says they’ve had about a 10 percent success rate, but too many people think it won’t happen to them.

K. Wilder of Florida A&M University says, "So we’d like them to recognize that seat belts can certainly save lives and can certainly save a lot of pain down the line, and it’s so simple, it only takes three seconds to buckle up.”

Police and even the governor have pushed for a change in the law to let police stop you for not wearing a seat belt, but the bill has failed to pass. Supporters say making seat belt violations a stoppable offense would save more than 260 lives in Florida every year.

Some FHP troopers think an increased presence would help reduce fatal crashes, but with more than 150 vacancies in the patrol and dozens more expected to retire soon, that's not likely to be the case.