A Guide for Tourists: Tips for Staying Safe When Visiting Florida
December 22, 2014
With sunny weather, unforgettable entertainment, and historic sites, Florida is a dream destination. But like any popular tourist destination, Florida has its own share of risks and potential hazards. According to an article in Broward Palm Beach New Times, you have as much as a one-in-nine chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Florida, depending on which city you are in. The article found that some of the most dangerous Florida cities include Miami Beach, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Pompano Beach.
If you’re visiting Florida this season, here are some tips to ensure your vacation is as safe as it is exciting and memorable.
Be prepared for the weather. Most locals know to stock up on water bottles and map out a hurricane escape plan during June through December each year, but tourists aren’t often adequately prepared for handling such an emergency. No one tells them that warm breezes in Florida can transform into heavy rain, high winds, and tidal surges.
You can check out hurricane forecast tracking map from the National Hurricane Center before traveling to learn the likelihood of a hurricane hitting while you’re in town. And if you do happen to be in Florida when a hurricane threatens, evacuate the area as soon as possible. It’s better to err on the side of caution and cut your vacation short than to get caught in a devastating storm. When the storm passes safely by, you should be able to return.
Keep an eye on your cash. Studies have found that robberies occur in Florida as often as every three minutes. While it may be tempting to spend a bit more money than usual and indulge in luxuries on vacation, don’t flash your cash around. With so many tourists coming through and money frequently changing hands, Florida is a magnet for pick-pockets.
Keep your money tucked securely in a money belt or buttoned pocket, and avoid carrying purses, which expert thieves can easily snatch. If you do carry a purse, keep it strapped across your body and clasped in the front. Only bring with you what you need for the day—leave extra credit cards, passports, and money stowed securely in a safe in your hotel room. Hotels have a responsibility to protect your belongings from theft.
Drink responsibly. You’re on vacation, so you may feel tempted to overindulge. And with so many bars offering drink specials and serving fruity, sugary drinks, it’s easy to drink a lot without even realizing it.
However, it’s important not to drink beyond your limit, since this makes you more vulnerable to theft or attack. And remember, never leave your drink unattended—don’t give someone a chance to slip something into it.
Protect yourself from the sun. In the sunny Florida weather, it’s easy to become dehydrated or sunburned. Dehydration and other heat-induced problems are among the most common medical issues in the area. To reduce your chances for illness, drink plenty of water, and always wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat when walking around.
Watch out for traffic. Florida roads are full of elderly drivers and tourists unfamiliar with the roads as well as a fair amount of intoxicated drivers, so be careful when you drive or walk around. Never drink while intoxicated—not only does this put the safety of you and others around you at risk, but you can be stopped by an officer, asked to submit to an alcohol test, and charged with a DUI.
Jaywalking is a common cause of pedestrian accidents in Florida. As a pedestrian, always use crosswalks and elevated pedestrian walkways when crossing the street.
Avoid dangerous areas. While heavily trafficked tourist areas are generally safe, there are some neighborhoods in Florida you should avoid altogether. Every city—even the ones that are considered safer than most—has its rough patches. Use your common sense to steer clear of dangerous neighborhoods, and don’t make yourself vulnerable to attack by burying your face in your smartphone GPS. If you get lost, ask a concierge at a nearby hotel for directions.
Mind the law. The state’s happy-go-lucky, carefree spirit often misleads visitors into thinking there are no rules in Florida. It’s important to keep in mind that you must follow the law in Florida just as you would any other place, and that authorities deal with crime—including drunken misconduct, illicit drug use, and DUIs—very seriously.
Florida is a spectacular destination, with lavish hotels, top restaurants, and thrilling activities. These tips aren’t meant to deter you from visiting this unique and splendid state, but rather to remind you of the risks so you can keep them from spoiling your stay.
But of course, accidents can happen to even the most cautious and prepared traveler. If you do experience harm or injury as a result of a hotel, business, or another person’s negligence, contact a personal injury lawyer who is well versed in Florida law. A seasoned lawyer can fight for your rights and help you obtain just compensation.
About the Author:
Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”