Within the last 30-day period, 9 people have been killed or seriously injured in pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Lee County. The most shocking and sad news is that in most of those cases, the pedestrian or cyclist was at fault.
Local law enforcement officials point out that in most of the crashes, the pedestrian was not crossing at the crosswalk, but in the middle of a busy roadway. An article in the local paper notes that a Fort Myers police officer likened watching people trying to get across U.S. Highway 41 to “watching Frogger”, the video game that shows frogs trying to frantically hop from one safe location to another.
The rash of recent accidents – 68 fatalities through October of this year alone in Lee County – is an unfortunate mix of too many cars and too many people trying to share the road, according to police. The seasonal influx of local drivers means an increase in all types of motor vehicle, pedestrian, motorcyclist and bicyclist accidents. For the same period last year, there were 51 fatalities.
Collier County has had 31 fatal crashes through October of this year. The City of Cape Coral has been especially hard-hit with deadly crashes this year, with 15 deaths through October.
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It is so frustrating to wake up and see the same headlines, almost daily, about a tragic car crash – especially when the bulk of them were easily preventable, and were caused by careless or inattentive driving, not using a crosswalk and other poor decisions. The circumstances of the crashes may differ from one to another, but the senselessness of them all is truly unfortunate. Here's a look at just a few very recent examples locally:
- An elderly woman, thought to suffer from dementia, was killed when she stepped in front of a car on Estero Parkway near Cypress View Drive.
- A man in North Fort Myers died when he stepped into the path of an oncoming tractor trailer while trying to fix a flat tire alongside the roadway.
- A car killed a pedestrian on Cleveland Avenue, and the driver fled the scene. He has since been located and charged with a felony count for fleeing the scene of an accident involving a fatality.
- An elderly couple, out for their usual early morning stroll, stepped into the path of an oncoming car on Winkler Road in South Fort Myers, and were killed. Investigators were unsure as to just why they walked in front of the car, and the driver was not charged.
And just today, 2 pedestrians in North Carolina were killed by a drunk driver who was texting as he tried to take a freeway exit ramp, and crashed into the pair as they were alongside the road because of a tire coming off their trailer. Was it the booze or texting that caused this terrible crash? Who knows – the fact is that it was stupid, negligent driving, and it happens far too often.
We've all seen instances of stupid driving around town, and it may sound unfair to always blame the out-of-town visitors for the bulk of them. But the fact is, the huge influx of drivers in Southwest Florida – the majority of them either elderly, unfamiliar with local roads or both – can mean a significant increase in crashes resulting in death or serious injury. A Fort Myers police officer recalled in a recent newspaper article the time he had to stop a seasonal resident from trying go down a one-way street in Downtown Fort Myers, with the confused driver remaining adamant that “his GPS told him he could go that way”.
The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released a new report in November 2013 on the nation's motor vehicle crashes for 2012. And here's an important fact – notice that the publication's title does not say “accidents”, it says “crashes.” An accident has a totally different definition than does a senseless crash that may have easily been avoided.
Here are some highlights – or lowlights – of the report:
- Motor vehicle crashes and fatalities increased in 2012 after six consecutive years of declining fatalities on our nation's highways.
- The nation lost 33,561 people in crashes on roadways during 2012, compared to 32,479 in 2011
- The increase in crashes, and the resulting fatalities and injuries, can be seen across many crash characteristics—vehicle type, alcohol impairment, location of crash, etc.—and does not seem to be associated with any one particular issue.
- While motor vehicle crash fatalities increased by 3.3 percent overall, the number of people who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes increased by 4.6 percent. In 2012, 10,322 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.
For a full copy of the report, click here.
The NHTSA also has some good information about pedestrian safety here.
Our law firm has worked on hundreds of serious car crash personal injury cases involving fatalities and life-changing physical trauma. We have seen so many people devastated by the careless, irresponsible driving behavior of another person. We work with people every day who need someone to fight for their legal rights, and to try to put their lives back together after losing a family member, or sustaining extreme, tragic injuries.