Florida highways just a little bit safer in 2011

Little by little, Florida’s highway death toll is coming down. New data just released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows the fatality rate for 2011 was down about 2 percent. Not a lot, true, but when added to the data from 2005 through last year, the state has lowered the highway body count by 32 percent.

So what do all those percentages mean in real numbers? It means that in 2011, 44 fewer people were killed in crashes, which is a good thing. But bear in mind that at least six people die every day in Florida wrecks. Back in 2005, 3,533 motorists lost their lives, and last year that toll dropped to 2,400. Safety experts like to talk about what they call the “state mileage death rate,” which means the number of people killed per 100 million miles traveled. Last year it was 1.25 deaths per 100 million miles, the lowest it’s been since the state started counting back in 1968.

Like every silver cloud, the report has a dark lining. Teen traffic deaths jumped from 144 in 2010 to 154 last year. Bicyclist fatalities leaped up 58 percent, from 76 in 2010 to 120 in 2011. And the number of motorcyclists and their passengers who took their final ride hit 451 last year, up from 383 in 2010. The number of crashes involving alcohol and drunk drivers was up 11 percent and 16 percent respectively, and drugged driver wrecks and fatalities increased 61 and 79 percent. Bear in mind that the number of drugged driving cases is much smaller than alcohol related ones, so small changes in the numbers translate to larger percentages.

Now comes the counterintuitive part. The increases noted above do not necessarily mean that more people are being killed. The state says it is collecting more and better data, so the higher death toll may be a result of¬†improved recordkeeping. Are the highways actually safer? Maybe. Safety officials say most accidents are avoidable and the result of “poor preparation and decision-making.” It’s up to the reader to decide what that encompasses.

Source: Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, “Fatalities on Florida’s roadways drop again in 2011,” Dec. 3, 2012