However, there are questions about how effective some of those laws truly are when when Florida has some of the highest rates of accident deaths by motor vehicles – including those involving bicyclists and pedestrians. In 2014, there were 2,494 traffic fatalities in Florida. That’s compared to New York – which has almost the exact same population – which had 1,039. California – which has double Florida’s population – had 3,074 that year. Texas, which is also about double, had 3,538.
Traffic safety experts say the issue is somewhat complicated. It starts with the fact that our roads (as were many in the South) were designed primarily for fast motor vehicle traffic. It continues with the fact that we have year-round nice weather and beautiful beaches and other tourist draws. That means we have far more people on our roads, many of them inexperienced with the area and sometimes on long commutes. There is also the issue of lacking public transportation, which is a major problem in a lot of Florida cities. But another issue is the fact that many of our traffic laws are rather lax.
Let’s start with speed limits. In New York, which despite having roughly the same population as Florida, has less than half the number of traffic fatalities, the speed limit on major busy highways is 55 mph. In Florida, the speed limits is 70 mph. The motor vehicle death rate in New York is 5.3 per 100,000 people. In Florida, it’s 12.5. When it comes to factors in fatal car accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that speeding was a factor in 28 percent of all motor vehicle accident deaths. It’s consistently ranked as a factor in one-third of all traffic accident fatalities since 2005. “Speeding” is considered not only exceeding the speed limit, but going too fast for the conditions.
Another issue: Distracted driving laws. Florida was one of the last states to outlaw texting and driving (in 2013) and it is one of the few that designates it as a secondary offense. That means cops cannot pull drivers over if they see them violating the law – unless they also see them breaking some other law. On top of that, even if a person is pulled over and cited, the ticket is for a mere $30 for a first-time offense.
FOX 4 recently reported there were 46,000 distracted driving accidents in Florida last year.
Another issue is the lax criminal penalties faced by drivers who hit and kill or injure cyclists and pedestrians. Unless the driver was drunk or tries to flee, he or she is usually only issued a traffic citation. Very rarely will they face jail time. Often the only way for victims to attain accountability is through civil litigation.
Finally, there are motorcycle helmet laws. Of course, these are controversial and state law is clear that a rider’s decision not to wear one won’t affect civil liability if another driver hits a motorcyclist. However, there is ample evidence that helmets do save lives – with riders being 67 percent less likely to suffer a brain injury and 37 percent less likely to die while wearing one.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Driving laws are unsafe in Florida, June 14, 2016, By David Zuhusky, The News-Press
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