Are you one of those people who just drives with no sense of urgency? Do you just get in the car, choose a particular lane of traffic, resign yourself to getting where you going whenever you get there, and then just tool along until you arrive at your destination? Maybe you are one of those people who are chatting on your cell phone while adjusting your radio and not necessarily following the straight and steady path that a traffic lane dictates. Let’s face it; if you are one of those people, you may well be driving the rest of us crazy. Yes, you just might be one of those people that contribute to South Florida having some of the worst drivers in the state. Now before you get annoyed with me, there is data to back up this statement. In 2004, there were roughly 200,000 traffic accidents in the state of Florida. Of these crashes, 91,000 of them occurred in the three most populous counties in South Florida – Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade. That means that nearly 46% of all the traffic accidents that happened in Florida happened right here.
If you are a South Florida resident and are paying attention, it is easy to see the reasons for these statistics, one of which is that many of our residents can neither read nor speak English. If you have ever driven in a foreign country, you can easily relate to how difficult a language barrier can be to successfully navigating the roadways there. It is easy to become confused when you don’t understand the road signs, miss your exit, or try to work around traffic to correct any mistakes you may have made. Another issue that can have deadly consequences is debris that is in the roadway. Whether it is something that has fallen out of the back of a work truck, pieces of a vehicle from a previous accident, or some other form of detritus, swerving to avoid objects in the road can cause more damage and chaos than if you hit the item you are trying to avoid. Keep in mind before you start grumbling about a slow-down posed by a previous accident that this is one of the valuable services that is provided by Road Rangers, tow truck operators, or police officers.
Pedestrians can also be a huge issue to snarling up traffic. Whizzing along the interstate at 60 mph or worse, navigating a surface street that has limited visibility, can be catastrophic for drivers and/or pedestrians. Sometimes if someone is walking down the interstate, it is because their vehicle has broken down and they are going to get help. At other times, however, pedestrians use highways to get to where they are going because it is the most direct route to their destination or they are hoping someone will offer them a ride. Both uses of the interstate are illegal. These pedestrians seem to have little-to-no regard for the danger this imposes to themselves and the drivers around them. Over a four year period, over 7,000 pedestrians suffered injuries inflicted by cars. This is a fact that they either fail to realize or don’t feel it is something that could happen to them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the large population of elderly residents in South Florida also has a bearing on traffic problems. Statistically, older drivers rival teenagers when it comes to the number of traffic accidents that they are involved in, and they suffer a higher mortality rate because they are less physically resilient. Slower reaction times and confusion are often unfortunate consequences of aging, but unlike with teenagers, there are no real restrictions to the driver’s licensing policies for older drivers. Additionally, older drivers tend to not be in as big of a rush as the rest of us, but what some slower drivers don’t know is that you can get a speeding ticket for driving too slowly. That’s right; driving less than 40 mph on the interstate can get you a speeding ticket because it poses a risk to the other drivers who are driving just under, at, or over the speed limit. Of course, texting while driving is a huge issue, as well – not just in South Florida and not just among teenagers. The amount of time and concentration that it takes to type a text, read a text, or send a text is frighteningly longer than the person doing so may think. Engaging in any of these activities when driving is tantamount to careening headlong down a football field while blindfolded except in the football field scenario, you are not likely to hurt anyone but yourself. Although this is currently considered a secondary offense and you cannot be pulled over specifically for it, there is legislation under consideration that would make texting while driving a primary offense.
One final point that contributes to the negative statistics about South Florida drivers is the lack of vehicle inspections. For a number of years, you could be issued a traffic ticket in Florida if you didn’t have your car inspected every year and have it deemed safe to operate on the roadways. That is no longer the case and can be the cause of road debris, poor air quality, and a host of other conditions that occur as a result of driving a junker.
Here are a few other interesting facts about driving in South Florida:
- The 305 area code ranks first in the country for car fatalities and road rage incidents. Additionally, Miami has the dubious distinction of its drivers receiving the largest number of traffic tickets.
- Hialeah has the highest rate of pedestrians being struck by cars with a 70% greater likelihood here than anywhere else in the United States.
- In 2012, Miami-Dade rank first in the country for the number of hit-and-run accidents with an average of 35 people being struck every day. (Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony in Florida.)
- Florida was rather slow to jump on the no-texting-while-driving bandwagon with it being the 44th state to make it a secondary traffic offense.
All of the issues are problematic and impact both the negative statistics and the negative impression others have of South Florida drivers. Some of these points such as texting while driving or walking along the interstate may seem innocuous to those who are committing these infractions, but frequently they are put into place to help keep the largest majority safe. It’s okay to drive slower than the posted speed limit, just please do it in the right lane so that you don’t impede the flow of traffic, and don’t drive so slowly that you pose a risk to yourself and others. It’s also okay to walk where you need to go, just make sure that you are well-clear of the road, are not on the interstate, and are clearly visible to drivers. Granted there are many traffic tickets that are issued just to generate funds for local governments. It certainly is a value resource to help pad their budgets. The quotas that cops fulfill benefit them as well as municipal budgets by either helping them to get promotions or by giving them the opportunity to feel powerful through the bullying others.