Saturday, April 21, 2018
Public safety

Florida near top of list as traffic fatalities nationwide continued to surge in 2016

Florida's traffic fatalities were up 43 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2014 — the fifth-highest increase in that time frame in the country, according to preliminary estimates released Tuesday by the National Safety Council.

Fatalities were up 9 percent for the whole country in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, continuing a surge in deaths that began two years ago as the economy improved and travel picked up.

From January through June this year, Florida experienced 1,590 traffic fatalities, compared to 1,441 in that same six-month period in 2015 and 1,114 in 2014, the study shows.

That ranks third in the country, behind Texas (1,824) and California (1,702), the study shows.

An estimated 19,100 people were killed on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2016, said the council, a congressionally chartered nonprofit that gets its data from state authorities. That's 18 percent more than two years ago at the six-month mark. About 2.2 million people also were seriously injured in the first half of this year.

The council estimates the cost of these deaths and injuries at about $205 billion.

At that rate, annual deaths could exceed 40,000 fatalities this year for the first time in nine years, the council said. More than 35,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, making it the deadliest driving year since 2008, when more than 37,000 were killed.

"Our complacency is killing us," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the safety council's president and CEO. "Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death."

The size of the increase in fatalities since 2014 "is really getting to the crisis level," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

It has been assumed that technological advances like more automated safety features in cars — and ultimately self-driving cars — would go a long way toward solving the problem of traffic fatalities since driver errors are responsible for 94 percent of all deaths, Adkins said. "But we are still a long way away from fully autonomous vehicles and need to really hone in on the unsafe driver behaviors that are still so pervasive, including distraction, drowsy and drunk driving, speeding, and failure to buckle up.," he said.

U.S. drivers have also put in a record 1.58 trillion miles on the road in the first half of this year, a 3.3 percent increase over the same period in 2015, the Federal Highway Administration said this week.

Other states with the biggest increases since the upward trend began in late 2014 include Vermont, up 82 percent; Oregon, 70 percent; New Hampshire, 61 percent; Idaho, 46 percent; Iowa, 37 percent; Georgia, 34 percent; Indiana, 33 percent; California, 31 percent and Wisconsin, 29 percent.

Traffic deaths declined in seven states in 2016 compared to 2014: Delaware, -8 percent; Hawaii, -11 percent; Montana, -3 percent; Nebraska, -7 percent; North Dakota, -10 percent; South Dakota, -34 percent and Wyoming, -35 percent. Traffic deaths also declined 31 percent in the District of Columbia.

"While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are at the core of the trend," the council said in a statement. Another likely factor: Average gas prices for the first six months of this year were 16 percent lower than in 2015.

The council also predicts that 438 people will be killed on the nation's roads over the three-day Labor Day weekend that begins Sept. 2, which would make it the deadliest Labor Day weekend since 2008.

Historical data show that after peaking in the 1970s, traffic deaths have generally trended downward, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Large dips in deaths have corresponded to shocks to the economy — the oil embargo of the mid-1970s, the recessions of the early 1980s and early 1990s and the more recent downturn that began in late 2007 with the subprime mortgage crisis.

During the Great Recession triggered by the housing crisis, the number of miles Americans put on the road each year plunged and fatalities dropped to levels not seen since Harry Truman was president.

The council's tallies of traffic fatalities differ slightly from those of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because the council includes motor vehicle deaths that take place in parking lots, driveways and other nonpublic roadways.

Comments
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA — A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

LARGO — Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal.What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate."I just felt so disrespected and violated," said Victoria Armstrong, whose fiance, Linus F. Phillip, was shot and...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Published: 04/20/18
St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG — Officers are searching for a 20-year-old woman who they believe to be missing and who could be in danger.Kayla Brandi Boone was last seen at about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 2700 block of Fourth Street S, according to St. Petersburg pol...
Published: 04/20/18

Deputies: 19-month-old child found in New Port Richey pond has died

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 19-month-old child that was found in a pond on Thursday afternoon has died, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The incident took place at about 12:31 p.m. Deputies and firefighters were called out to a home in the 47...
Published: 04/20/18
Suspect in Gilchrist deputies’ slayings has Tampa Bay ties

Suspect in Gilchrist deputies’ slayings has Tampa Bay ties

The man identified as the suspect who fatally shot two Gilchrist County deputies in a restaurant Thursday afternoon before taking his own life has ties to the Tampa Bay area.Deputies say John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell — who was found dead outside ...
Published: 04/20/18
Authorities say motive in deputy killings may never be known

Authorities say motive in deputy killings may never be known

TRENTON — Investigators in Florida say they may never know why a man - a recluse from a rural farm community who rarely ventured into town - killed two sheriff’s deputies while they sat in a Chinese restaurant. John Hubert Highnote, 58, of Bell casua...
Published: 04/20/18
One injured, suspect in custody in Ocala school shooting

One injured, suspect in custody in Ocala school shooting

OCALA — One student shot another in the ankle at a Florida high school and the suspected shooter is in custody, authorities said Friday.The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported that the shooting happened Friday morning at Forest High School, which...
Published: 04/20/18