1. Florida

5 reasons Florida might be the most dangerous state in the country

WalletHub ranked Florida 48th in a list of the “safest states in America.” We get it.
Hurricanes, alligators and accidental shootings are some of the dangers in Florida. [Times (2018), Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Clearwater Police]
Hurricanes, alligators and accidental shootings are some of the dangers in Florida. [Times (2018), Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Clearwater Police]
Published Jun. 28, 2019
Updated Jun. 28, 2019

Florida is 2019’s third-least safe state in the U.S., according to a new ranking by WalletHub. Only Louisiana and Mississippi were ranked as being more dangerous.

Sure, WalletHub — a personal finance website known for methodically measured lists — used 52 different metrics covering financial safety, road safety, workplace safety, emergency preparedness and personal and residential safety to rank each state, but in our gut, Floridians already knew this state was trying to kill us.

It feels like we might actually be the most dangerous state in the union. And that’s not a particular point of pride as much as a combination of reputation and fact.

Here’s a closer look at five dangers that feel uniquely Florida. Maybe next year we can try for most improved.

Accidental shootings are soaring.

The body camera worn by a Pasco sheriff's deputy captured the scene after a 69-year-old man was shot Sunday while waiting in line at the Publix at 2121 Collier Parkway in Land O' Lakes. Deputies later discovered he had been accidentally shot by a small pistol that went off inside his wife's purse after it fell to the floor. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office]

Standing in line at a supermarket? Waiting to pick someone up at a school? Just standing around a middle school cafeteria doing your job? In all of those instances, a gun was accidentally fired.

Headlines about accidental shootings in Florida raced across news sites in the last few months. Some have led to injury or death, like the construction worker accidentally shot and killed by his friend while working on a roof in Riverview.

Federal data shows a flat rate for injuries in accidental shootings nationwide, while in Florida, the number of people injured in accidental shootings increased 82 percent between 2007 and 2017.

Also read: Nationally, number of people hurt in firearms accidents is flat. In Florida, it’s soaring.

In Florida you can get shot and killed standing on roof by someone who tripped and fell on the ground below. That’s an all-new level of danger in life.

Mother Nature is constantly trying to kill us.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Mexico Beach on Monday (12/9/18) which remains in a mostly suspended state of destruction since Hurricane Michael made landfall. At right is the home of Laurie June, who said her home was pushed off its foundation across the canal during the storm.

The danger factor of Florida’s weather cannot be understated. Not only can it change from sunshine to roof-ripping winds in a matter of seconds, just standing out in the heat can be a risk.

Recent heat advisories have even prompted forecasters to say it’s not safe to go outside in the afternoon. Just stepping out of your door is dangerous in Florida you don’t have to actually do anything.

From the panhandle through to the keys, Florida can experience almost every kind of major weather event out there.

The state has experienced a rash of major hurricanes in recent years. In 2018, Hurricane Michael hit as a Category 5, making it the most powerful to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which was also in Florida.

Also read: Ground zero: See the damage Hurricane Michael inflicted on Mexico Beach

And if hurricanes, tornadoes and extreme heat aren’t dangerous enough for you, how about sinkholes?

Even if you stay in your house all day long with the air conditioning pumping and don’t dare brave the ominous Florida outdoors, there’s still the unlikely possibility the earth could still open up at random and swallow you whole while you nap in bed. It happened here in 2013.

Mississippi and Louisiana have also experienced some crucially devastating weather that’s not to be discounted. But in Florida, it’s another big-time check in the unreasonably dangerous column.

Gators and panthers and snakes. Oh, my.

An 11-foot alligator is seen the a Clearwater home in this handout photo from the Clearwater Police Department Friday, May 31, 2019. A woman delivering the Tampa Bay Times called police after hearing glass breaking. The gator broke through some low kitchen windows about 4 a.m. Friday at the single-family home on Eagles Landing Circle, southwest of McMullen Booth and Curlew Roads. Photo courtesy of Clearwater Police

The wildlife in the Sunshine State is exceptionally wild.

You can spot an alligator while strolling through any given neighborhood, or while picnicking at a lake. And while rare, Florida leads the nation in fatal gator encounters and gator attacks are on the rise. One smashed its way into a home in Clearwater on a recent night.

Also read: Alligator attacks are on the rise in Florida. Thank humans, scientists say.

Gators may be identifiable with Florida, but there are other deadly animals lurking nearby.

Take a ride across the state and you’ll see panther crossing signs, though there has never been a verified Florida panther attack on a human in this century. Floridians should be more worried about the six types of venomous snakes that live in the state, and lurk in the grasses and rocks of rest areas along the interstate. A rabid bat clung to a woman’s arm in Sun City Center not long ago, and rabies cases have been on the rise locally.

In the waters there are sting rays and bony sturgeons that jump from the water and, on rare occasions, collide fatally with humans. Florida is also home to brain-eating amoeba and deadly bacteria in some seafood.

Also read: Rabid otters, flying fish, brain-eating amoebas: Here’s how Florida can kill you

In Florida, you’ll find native red, black and brown widow spiders, which deliver a painful bite that can be fatal in rare and extreme circumstances, along with the infamous brown recluse. And if dangerous spiders aren’t enough, Florida is second in the nation for wild pig attacks.

Whether you bike, walk or drive, our roads can be pretty treacherous.

Files | Times

Eight cities in Florida make up the 10 deadliest places in America to walk, according to a report by Smart Growth America. Florida also landed in GasBuddy’s ranking of the top 20 for states with the most aggressive drivers.

In 2018 alone, there was an epidemic of wrong-way crashes in the Tampa Bay area with more than a dozen, about eight of which were fatal. The WalletHub report listed Florida as the second-worst state for road safety.

The Florida Man.

Images from some of our most widely shared Florida stories: the man who broke into the Chattaway to eat soup and play the bongos naked, Miami's 'Florida Joker,' and a couple that planned a Florida Man-themed maternity shoot.

And, of course, there is the “Florida man,” whose reputation shines on the state like a spotlight of laughter with a filament of jokes and jeers. “Florida man…” the ubiquitous, attention grabbing start to what is almost guaranteed to be a strange and click-worthy true crime story.

When was the last time your ears peaked at the mention of a Louisiana man story or a Mississippi man story?

But mention Florida man, and you know you’re in for a ride. What’ll it be today? A man getting a DUI after hitting a police car with his tractor? A naked man breaking into a burger joint overnight and munching on some ramen? Or maybe the classic face-eating zombie-like attack?

In March, the “Florida Man Challenge” took the internet by storm, prompting people to share the crazy stories that popped up when they searched “Florida man” followed by their birthdays.

Also read: Florida Man Challenge: Which ridiculous headline matches your birthday?

Oxygen TV recently announced a Florida man true crime TV show featuring “America’s most notorious, outrageous, craftiest killers from the Sunshine State,” the network said in a release.

“When the murder is so bizarre, the motive so far-fetched and the crime so outlandish that it sounds like something from a Hollywood screenplay—there’s a good chance it was actually committed by a “Florida Man,’’ a description of the show read.

There’s even a website dedicated to a Florida man scoring system.

Where’s your show Louisiana? Mississippi? Where’s your scoring site?

Being the most dangerous state isn’t something to brag about. But maybe working on it can be.


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