Wrong-way driving in Florida is troubling type of traffic accident that tends to occur more frequently on highways and at high speeds – meaning the likelihood of a fatality is greatly increased.
Impaired driving is perhaps the greatest common denominator, though the poor vision and confusion that can come with age is also frequently cited. Most cases happen at night, and sometimes involve drivers who are distracted or aren’t familiar with the roads they are traveling.
But tackling the problem has proved difficult. Municipalities across the state have taken initiative to put bright, flashing lights at off-ramps that may be mistaken for entrances. Others have tried to improve signage. Many are continuing to weigh the best way to address the problem.
Consider that records reveal there were 224 wrong-way crashes on the state’s turnpike system from 2003 to 2012, and that includes 22 fatal crashes. Those are just some of the wrong-way crashes that happen across the state.
Recently the South Florida Sun-Sentinel conducted a Q&A with area residents and traffic safety officials on the issue.
One of the first queries had to do with why traffic engineers don’t simply place spikes at all on and off-ramps to prevent wrong-way drivers from entering the expressways and interstates. The answer is that there are emergency workers and construction crews that frequently need to drive the wrong way at those locations for legitimate reasons.
One system that has proven relatively effective is a motion-activated sensor that detects when a driver enters the wrong way and begins flashing bright “Wrong Way” signs at the driver. If the driver breezes past those signs, a photo of the vehicle is taken and an alert is sent to the command center of the Florida Highway Patrol. Illuminated signs on the highway will then alert motorists to a wrong-way driver in the area. In just six months of implementing this system, officials say there were nine incidents of wrong-way driving that were prevented, with each of the drivers stopping before entering the highway.
Of those incidents, six occurred at the Homestead Extension of the turnpike, while three occurred on the Sawgrass Express.
But the system isn’t full-proof. The latter location was the site of a recent fatal wrong-way crash, though in that incident, it was the wrong-way driver who was killed. The driver of the vehicle he struck head-on, however, was left in critical condition. Occupants of other vehicles were struck as well.
The 36-year-old wrong-way driver, a father of three who lacked a valid driver’s license, was traveling north in the southbound lanes of Sawgrass. A photo of his vehicle was snapped by the Florida Department of Transportation’s system. However, events unfolded so quickly, there was not enough time for motorists to react. The photo was snapped at 5:13 a.m. The first 911 call of a crash was placed at 5:14 a.m.
The incident occurred not far from the site of a 2013 crash involving the so-called “pothead princess,” Kayla Mendoza, who texted she was “2 drunk 2 care” before driving her vehicle at 80 mph the wrong direction before slamming into another vehicle, killing the two young women inside. Mendoza was later sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Officials oppose spikes to deter wrong-way drivers, Oct. 2, 2015, By Michael Turnbell, Sun-Sentinel
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