Local News

Road fatalities go up compared to last year

SEBRING - Almost all of this year’s fatal road accidents in Highlands County have happened during two months. January and April have been the deadliest months so far for county road fatalities, which have taken seven lives the first five months of the year. Two of those killed were pedestrians struck by a vehicle; in two of the crashes the drivers lost control of the vehicles; while the three others were two-vehicle crashes, FHP reports show. Three people were killed in January: one pedestrian struck by a vehicle, one driver who was hit by another, and one passenger involved in a single-car crash.
The same holds true for April: a hit-and-run accident where a pedestrian lost his life Sunday after critical injuries, a single-vehicle crash on State Road 70, and two-car crash U.S. 27 that took the life of one driver and injured the other. A two-vehicle accident in early February also took the life of a 58-year-old. With seven deaths, the number of road fatalities so far this year has more than doubled compared to the corresponding period last year, FHP figures show. Florida Highway Patrol Troop F spokesman Lt. Greg Bueno said Highlands County had three road fatalities from Jan. 1 to May 6, 2012, for a total of 11 for all of last year. While this year’s road fatalities are up, emergency workers are responding to the same number of accidents, perhaps even a little bit lower compared to last year, said Highlands County Emergency Medical Services Director Harvey Craven III. So far this year, EMS has responded to 444 automobile crashes, Craven said. Last year’s total count was 1,221. While the number of crashes may have declined slightly this year, Craven said they’ve seen the number of injuries that need transportation to a trauma center go up. While the number of those killed in road accidents so far is higher than last year, it appears much lower that 2011 and 2010. In 2011, nine people died between Jan. 1 and June 12 from crash-related injuries, according to a previous Highlands Today story. During the same span in 2010, 21 died; that figure includes the deaths of five people who were killed during a bus crash in Lake Placid. At an increase of four, Highlands also has the third highest increase in road deaths so far this year, of the 10 counties the FHP’s Troop F division patrols. While Hendy and Charlotte counties each saw five more road fatalities between Jan. 1 and May 6 compared to last year, Hardee and DeSoto counties did not see an increase while Collier County saw the numbers drop by 11 from 21 in 2012, FHP numbers show. “Some of the cases are still under investigation,” Bueno said in email. “In each crash one of the vehicles involved contributed to the cause of the crash, for example (careless driving, violation of right of way) “Alcohol and not wearing seatbelts were factors in some of the fatal crashes as well,” he added. Four of the fatalities in Highlands County happened on U.S. 27, the county’s busiest thoroughfare. Some Highlands County residents blamed various factors for the increase in the road deaths. Wes Linscott, who has been here since last September, said he has observed “very aggressive, reckless driving.” “It looks like some people think they're on the racetrack instead of a public way,” he wrote on Highlands Today’s Facebook page. Anthony Michael Escobar blames people who like to drive 45 mph in all three lanes on U.S. 27. “It backs up traffic and causes people to constantly switch lanes in order to get around them,” he wrote. Matthew Adam Byrd said it bothers him when drivers don't understand the concept that the left land is the “passing” lane and the “fast” lane. “I can't count the number of times I've been stuck behind traffic blocking all three lanes going the same exact speed and nobody seems to want to get out of the way,” he said. pagarwal@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5831