HOBE SOUND, Fla. (CBS12) — If you are new to the area or have lived here your whole life, you know Florida is known for dangerous drivers, but new data shows the situation is getting worse.
According to the U.S. Transportation Department, the number of traffic deaths nationwide surged in the first nine months of 2021 to 31,720. The number was 12 percent higher than the same period in 2020 and the highest nine-month figure since 2006.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the surge a national crisis.
Florida’s numbers are also on the rise. According to the Florida Highway Patrol and Motor Vehicles database, statewide fatalities from crashes were up nearly 10 percent from 3,332 fatalities in 2020 to 3,629 in 2021.
It was also ranked third most dangerous state to drive in, according to a report by Uplift Legal Funding.
We also looked at numbers for our five local counties: Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Okeechobee Counties. Data showed 298 people died in crashes during 2020 compared to 321 people the following year.
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Drivers who talked to CBS12 News said more needs to be done to make roads safer as they feel like their lives are on the line every time they get behind the wheel.
Andrea George was born and raised in West Palm Beach. She spends most of her workday in the car, traveling from site to site.
“Unfortunately, I see lots of craziness, lots of accidents. Interstate 95 southbound and northbound, depending on the time of day, usually around 4:00 o’clock is a madhouse,” she said. “I will see three accidents, between two or three lights.”
Juan Calle is a local tow truck driver. He said on any given day he will respond to a dozen calls, most of them car accidents.
“Distractions. A lot of people on the phone. Just wasting time, doing the wrong things on the road because they were on the phone all the time,” he said. “You need to get home and you want to get home safe.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently released a new national roadway safety strategy to try to combat the problem.
It includes rethinking speed limits and studying the greater use of speed cameras. There are also 6 billion dollars in grants for safer road design. Including bike lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. Buttigieg also called on automakers to do their part by boosting safety standards for vehicles and incorporating new technology like automated braking.
At the end of the day though, many drivers agreed, a great start to improving the safety of our roads would be simply slowing down and putting the phone away.