It’s official. COVID has not made the streets of Southwest Florida any safer.
The News-Press reported there were more than 100 traffic fatalities last year in Lee County, despite the drastic traffic reductions that resulted from COVID restrictions through high season and the summer months.
It was the 10th time since 2000 that Lee County recorded more than 100 traffic deaths in a year, but the first time since 2017. So, statistically, road risks actually increased during the pandemic, despite the travel restrictions and business closures.
As our injury lawyers in Fort Myers have pointed out here on our blog, vulnerable road users continue to be at highest risk and are overrepresented in the statistics. There were 22 Lee County pedestrians killed in crashes in 2020, 18 motorcyclists and eight bicyclists. That accounts for nearly half of the total number of fatalities. All totaled, there were 107 Lee County drivers killed in 94 fatal crashes in 2020.
Eleven of the 98 fatal crashes were hit-and-runs and a high number of fatal crashes were blamed on speeding.
“We changed our behaviors: began wearing masks, frequently washing our hands and practicing social distancing, yet drivers continued to engage in dangerous and unsafe behaviors while operating a motor vehicle,” said Jay Anderson, of Fort Myers and the executive director of Stay Alive….Just Drive! Inc. told The News-Press.
Most Common Causes of Traffic Fatalities in SWFL
Our injury lawyers in Fort Myers and Cape Coral recognize most were caused by common, avoidable, accident scenarios.
Vulnerable road users: As noted, walkers and riders accounted for half of the traffic deaths. Safety advocates continue to point to Southwest Florida’s explosive growth and the lack of adequate infrastructure for walkers and riders as among the primary causes.
Aggressive driving: Speeding, tailgating, not using signals, following too closely, driving too fast for traffic, road or weather conditions, and other forms of aggressive driving were blamed for a large number of collisions.
Distraction: While true numbers are hard to pinpoint, driver distraction is believed to be involved in more than one-third of all serious motor vehicle collisions.
Intoxication: While involved in fewer overall crashes, these collisions continue to prove among the most deadly. Alcohol is the primary driver, but opioids and marijuana continue to be involved in an outsized number of these incidents.
Local safety advocates, including Dan Moser of BikeWalkLee, continue to stress safety as we emerge from COVID. Moser said both require a selflessness, but it’s apparently selfishness that is behind the steady number of traffic deaths, despite the reduction in traffic.
Anyone on our roads lately could tell you it doesn’t seem like the snowbirds have left yet. As the world attempts to return to normal, we can only assume traffic and congestion will increase markedly in the coming months. The 150 traffic deaths in Lee County in 2005 at the height of the real estate boom is the most ever recorded.
That does not bode well for the future safety of Lee County roads unless we all work together to reduce the risks.
If you or a loved one is injured, call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.