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Florida’s Rural & Suburban Roads Have More Fatal Crashes Than Cities


There’s no arguing with math, especially when it comes to something obvious, like comparing a higher number to a lower number. Areas in Florida like Venice or Sarasota, are not in the same league of population as urban corridors like the Tampa / St Petersburg area.  Because there are more people in those denser areas, there’s the expectation that there’s a higher likelihood of fatal traffic accidents.

However, higher numbers of people don’t automatically translate into higher numbers of fatal accidents. For example, despite what appears to be the commonsensical notion that deadly traffic accidents are more likely to occur in the urban density of the downtown area of a city like Tampa or even Sarasota, the actual data reports that traffic fatal crases are more likely to occur in suburban and rural areas, rather than in an urban core zone.

A report by TRIP uncovers surprising truth about rural roads in Florida, and less surprising information about the condition of infrastructure in Florida’s rural areas:

The rate of traffic fatalities on Florida’s non-Interstate, rural roads is significantly higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state – 2.27 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 1.30 and is the tenth highest in the nation. There were 584 fatalities on Florida’s non-Interstate, rural roads in 2018. Rural roads are more likely to have narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, exposed hazards, pavement drop-offs, steep slopes and limited clear zones along roadsides.

The report also finds that three percent of Florida’s rural roads are rated in poor condition and 10 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Five percent of Florida’s rural bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition and 43 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Bridges rated poor/structurally deficient have significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge and are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including agricultural equipment, commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.

—TRIP, National Transportation Research Nonprofit

There are several reasons why this occurs. Surprisingly, the greater the perception of safety in suburban areas often leads to a higher chance of accidents.

Speeding

Driving over the speed limit, thus reducing the response time for preventive action in an accident situation, is a common cause of accidents everywhere, but speeding tends to happen at higher rates in suburban and rural areas. Ironically, the reason for this is a lack of traffic. With longer, emptier stretches of road not as prone to being interrupted by traffic lights, the temptation to speed is often too appealing for drivers to ignore.

Unfortunately, traveling at faster speeds dramatically narrows the time of response in which a driver can react. It’s this inability to respond that often leads to accidents.

Animals

Another reason accidents occur more often in suburban areas is the larger presence of animals. Unlike a downtown area, where dogs are always leashed and there’s little chance of wildlife, suburban areas greatly differ. Cats may be allowed to roam, dogs can sometimes be loose on their own front lawns, and of course, wildlife is also more likely to appear here than in a downtown core. An animal walking or dashing across a road can easily lead to an accident as a driver attempts to react.

Children

Like animals, there is a much higher chance of children being present and taking to the road in suburban areas than in dense urban centers like a downtown core. Suburbs are, by design, residential areas, so children are typically allowed to play in parks, play in front or backyards, or roam the neighborhood on tricycles, bicycles, scooters, or on foot.

Unfortunately, the presence of children lends any situation more unpredictably. A game going awry, such as chasing after a ball or an overly energetic game of tag, can turn into children unexpectedly appearing on the streets. If a driver is not obeying speed limits for residential areas, it can result in not having enough time to respond.

Intoxication

The demands of driving in a dense urban center often mean people need to remain sober, especially during working hours. However, in residential and even rural areas, the smaller population and emptier roads can often tempt people to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, someone who would never drive drunk to or from work might consider it for driving from home to a few blocks to the nearest store to quickly buy something.

Unfortunately, the shorter distances involved do not automatically lessen the chances of an accident, especially while intoxicated. However, the temptation is there, especially since suburbs tend to be less heavily policed. Therefore there is less likelihood of being randomly stopped by law enforcement. This, and the familiar surroundings, can lull drivers into a false sense of security about being able to drive while intoxicated safely.

Distracted Driving

Like intoxication, drivers are more likely to indulge in distracted driving in the suburbs than in an urban setting, such as driving down a heavily used freeway. Residents of a suburb are in familiar surroundings, feel safer, and are thus more inclined to pull out a phone while driving and consult text messages or use other smartphone functions.

For a quick trip to the grocery store, or even just driving down for dinner to a local restaurant, it’s very easy for drivers to feel safer about quickly checking the phone.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident on Florida’s roads, talk to an experienced auto accident attorney in Florida to get the justice and compensation you’re owed.

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

Florida’s Rural & Suburban Roads Have More Fatal Crashes Than Cities

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh




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