In today’s fast-paced highways, with great convenience and better technology used in modern vehicles, drivers can get from point A to point B in a shorter time than before. Despite the many benefits modern vehicles have brought us, they have a dark side.
There are more car accidents than ever before, and Florida is ranked as the third most dangerous U.S. state to drive in, according to the U.S. department of transportation. Lakeland, in particular, has had many accidents due to driver negligence.
Each year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) collects and analyzes data to find innovative methods to improve driver and passenger safety across the state. We will highlight road carnage statistics in Lakeland in the past decade.
Pedestrian accidents have not only become a problem in Lakeland but also across other cities in Florida as well. Pedestrians and drivers can cause these accidents in several ways. The most common cause of pedestrian accidents is negligence, which incorporates not using crosswalks, being under the influence when crossing the road or driving, or being distracted while walking along the highway or crossing the road.
With 99 pedestrian deaths between 2016 and 2020, the Lakeland metropolitan area ranks 21st out of 101 metro areas in terms of pedestrian deaths in the United States. In 2017, there were 9,420 pedestrians involved in vehicle accidents, resulting in 659 fatalities. In addition, 8,126 injuries were reported. These incidents increased by 3.49% in 2016, with 9,085 pedestrian accidents reported that year.
With increasing cases of pedestrian accidents experienced in Lakeland and across Florida, there is a need to provide more awareness to drivers and pedestrians, as well as improve and make the roads safer. According to the most recent Smart Growth of America’s “Dangerous by Design” report on the epidemic of pedestrians struck and killed, Polk County is attempting to secure a portion of a $5-6 billion federal grant to help make its roads safe.
As a pedestrian, you need to be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking at night. While the chances of you being in a pedestrian accident are lower when walking during the day, pedestrians are three times more likely to be involved in an accident between 6 p.m. and midnight than during the day, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study.
Additionally, ensure you obey all traffic laws. When jaywalking, be sure to do so in crosswalks and avoid crossing at intersections. You should also avoid wearing headphones as you could become distracted from your surroundings, and make sure you always use a crosswalk when crossing roads. If possible, walk on the sidewalk instead of the street, and avoid walking along heavily traveled or high-speed roads.
Cyclists are equally as vulnerable as pedestrians because of their lack of protection. With most roads having increased speed limits, cyclists must be extra careful as they are now at more risk of being hit by cars.
According to District One FDOT Secretary Billy Hattaway, whose region includes Polk County and 11 other counties, four of the top five least bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly metropolitan areas in the U.S. are now in Florida.
Currently, several measures have been taken to improve cycling and walking safety. These include the construction of bike lanes and designated bike paths, such as the Lakeland Greenway and Lakeland Trail.
If you are a cyclist, ensure you’re aware of how to prevent and protect yourself from being hit by a car. Wear a helmet, reflective gear, and high-visibility clothing when cycling. If you frequently ride at night, install lights on your bicycle and turn them on so that motorists can see you.
Also, if traffic is too heavy for you to pass through safely, avoid the risk and use designated trails or crosswalks where applicable.
Drivers’ negligence and impulsive behavior are the number one cause of most road accidents in the U.S. Vehicle defects like faulty brakes, tires, or seat belts also cause accidents.
So far, in 2022, the FLHSMV has recorded 9,613 motor vehicle accidents in Polk County. This statistic is based on data collected through October 6, 2022. Over 13,000 incidents were reported on Lakeland and Polk County highways in 2021. This statistic was at least a thousand more than in the preceding three years.
Unfortunately, the 2022 crash data still has time to meet or exceed the 2021 records. December has been the month with the most accidents for the last few years.
DUI (driving under the influence) is a significant factor in most U.S. vehicle accidents and has become a common issue in Lakeland. There were 5,125 accidents in 2017 where alcohol impairment was a verified contributing cause.
Another factor that has contributed to increased car crashes in Florida is the lack of appropriate signage, lane markings, and roadway designs. Polk County’s most dangerous collision locations were on U.S. Route 92, State Road 92, and State Road 659. State Road 37 in Lakeland, County Road 655 in Wahneta, and State Road 544 in Winter Haven also recorded several car accidents.
Another hot spot for vehicle collisions is the Lakeland intersection of Griffin Road and U.S. 98 North. This intersection was ranked number one among Polk County’s top 10 hazardous crossroads due to excessive traffic.
Some of Lakeland’s pedestrian and car accidents could have been prevented if those involved had taken proper precautions and used their common sense. If you are a motorist, be aware of your surroundings and be sure not to drive aggressively. Also, ensure you obey all traffic laws, such as not texting or talking on your phone while driving. In addition, do not drive at night if you do not feel comfortable doing so, and avoid driving under the influence of drugs.
Getting Help Following a Car Accident
In case you or someone you love has been involved in a road accident, there are several options to seek help and support. If you are a pedestrian or cyclist, seek medical and legal assistance immediately after the accident and report the incident to the police. You can speak with a personal injury lawyer for legal advice on your rights regarding compensation for medical bills, property damage, pain, suffering, or loss of income.