With its miles of coastline as well as plentiful lakes, streams, and channels, Florida is the ideal setting for anyone who loves spending time on the water. Unfortunately, our easy access to water also means that traffic accidents involving submersion are a problem in our state.
Not only does Florida lead the nation in boating accidents, our state also leads the nation for most drowning deaths from traffic accidents, with an average of slightly more than one accident per week. There are around 400 traffic accident submersion drowning deaths in the country each year, which means that Florida has about 13-14% of all these accidents.
With 1,197 miles of coastline and more than 30,000 lakes covering over 3 million acres of land, there are plenty of places around Florida where people involved in a car accident are at risk for getting into a submersion accident. Of course, the amount of water around the state is not the only reason Florida has a disproportionate number of the nation’s traffic accident drowning deaths. In order to make drivers more aware of potential problems, here’s a look at some factors that may contribute to this type of accident.
Why Are Car Submersion Deaths Occurring in Florida?
Winding roads near bodies of water. Our state has more than its fair share of winding roads that border bodies of water, whether that’s the coast, the Everglades, or any other lakes and streams. Rural areas may be particularly hazardous because upcoming curves in roads may not be as clearly labeled, and cars that are driving too quickly may lose control on a turn and go underwater.
Tourists are unfamiliar with the area. With its year-round beautiful weather, beaches, and abundance of amusement parks, Florida is one of the nation’s top tourist destinations. That also means that there are a lot of visitors who rent cars and drive around areas that they are unfamiliar with. Driving at night in a place that you don’t know can be especially risky.
Drunk driving. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Florida, but it’s certainly a contributing factor in some submersion drowning accidents. It’s not hard to find stories about this kind of accident in the news—this past New Year’s, for example, a Wisconsin bartender who left her shift with a BAC of .16 died after losing control of her car and sliding into a frozen river. In Austin, Texas, in 2013, a drunk driver and her passenger died after mistaking a boat ramp for a highway on-ramp and driving into Lady Bird Lake.
This type of accident is tragic enough when the drunk driver is killed, but it’s even more horrific when innocent people also die, as a result. For example, in 2010,Florida millionaire John Goodman drove drunk, ran a stop sign, slammed into another vehicle, and pushed the other car into a nearby canal. Goodman failed to stop and help, and the other car’s driver was later found dead in his submerged vehicle.
Fight Back After Losing a Loved One in a Submersion Accident
Just because Florida has many bodies of water doesn’t mean we should lead the nation in traffic accident drownings—there’s no excuse for this kind of senseless incident. Since drunk driving is a major contributing factor in many of these cases, it’s clear that this is a problem we need to continue targeting in our state.
If you’ve lost a loved one in this kind of accident because of a drunk or reckless driver, one of the best things you can do is take legal action against the guilty party. The driver may already be facing criminal charges, but by taking civil action against them you can fight to get the compensation you and your family need to move on, and draw even more attention to this problem in our state. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it will be to effect change.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”