Major interchanges along Interstate 95 in St. Johns County continue to experience high numbers of wrecks — and data shows it’s worsening. There are various ways in which drivers can safely approach these roadways but where do these hot spots exist and what is causing them to be prone to high numbers of accidents?
Startling data provided by the Florida Highway Patrol shows crashes that occurred between April 2014 to April 2015 and April 2015 to April 2016 rose from 580 to 761 — a 31 percent increase. In that pool of numbers, crashes with injuries saw a rise from 182 to 236, while crashes involving fatalities dropped from nine to seven.
Of the recent crashes, the FHP found that 35 percent of them occurred in four major intersections, or “hot spots,” within St. Johns County. This includes County Road 210, International Golf Parkway, State Road 16, and State Road 207, the latter being the most dangerous at 88 wrecks.
Officials are noticing trends that may be to blame for the increase of accidents along these four interchanges. Below are the three major concerns the FHP has pointed out thus far and how to stay safe during each situation.
It may be of no surprise that distracted driving is one of the main culprits behind the heavy number of accidents occurring along these roads. “Anything that takes a driver’s mind off the road is distracted driving,” Sgt. Dylan Bryan, spokesman for the FHP, told the St. Augustine Record. “Texting, impairment, whether it be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and internal distractions like music, food, family, or pets all go together to take the driver’s mind off the road, which increases the potential for a wreck.”
And the numbers speak for themselves. Data provided by the Florida Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found that St. Johns alone accrued 566 distracted driving crashes in 2015, with 284 of those crashes resulting in injuries.
The department encourages drivers to focus on driving, not cell phones, the radio, or interactions with passengers. Answering phone calls and text messages can wait. If you have an emergency or an activity that demands your attention, pull of the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place before engaging in the activity, says the AAA. Even at seemingly safe moments in traffic or if you’re stopped at a light, it is best to wait or pull over so your full attention is on the road and nothing else.
Merging and Exits
The four hot spots along I-95 are intersecting points where traffic patterns change mostly because drivers are merging and exiting. A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 found that 312,000 vehicles were involved in a crash due to merging or lane changing maneuvers, 769 of which resulted in fatalities and roughly 48,000 in injuries. Merging into traffic or changing lanes to exit a highway can be tricky, especially for new drivers just starting out. Driver’s Ed Guru, an online guide for providing information and practice tests to new drivers, suggests drives to use the acceleration lane, or the entrance ramp, to quickly get up to the same speed of the highway traffic. Then, activate your turn signal and look for a gap in traffic to merge into.
Make sure that your eyes are looking ahead and behind you through the mirrors at all time, as cars ahead of you may suddenly brake or you may need to brake quickly. Once you’ve done all this, merge quickly. Don’t forget that coming to a full stop on a merge lane can be very dangerous, as it will take more time for your vehicle’s speed to reach that of the flow of traffic, thus increasing the risk of a crash.
Lack of Places to Stop
Another reason for wrecks on the St. Johns County portion of I-95 is the lack of places to stop alongside the road. “There aren’t many exits along the stretch, and there is five miles between them,” said Bryan. While no plans currently exist for shoulder additions and improvements along these roads, there are certain techniques that drivers can practice to stay safe nonetheless.
First off, AAA suggests that drivers not follow other vehicles too closely, as rear end collisions are some of the greatest dangers on highways. But most importantly, giving yourself some cushion is always a good idea in case you must come to an emergency stop. Because these hot spots lack space for doing this procedure properly, putting on your four way emergency flashers will notify approaching drivers that there is something wrong and should reduce their speed.
It is also best to pull over away from traffic as much as possible, despite the lack of space, so as to disrupt oncoming traffics as little as possible. If you are driving a commercial vehicle, you are also required to set up reflective warning triangles or red flag behind your vehicle so drivers are aware of the situation. If your vehicle must be towed, call 911 to notify officials. Never stand behind or directly in front of your vehicle, as other drivers may have trouble seeing you, according to AAA.
Despite safer driving tactics and potential improvements to road conditions down the line, accidents at these four hot spots may continue to occur in the foreseeable future. Our St. Augustine attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have years of experience and are ready and willing to help guide you through your legal fight. If you have been the victim of a car accident along these major roadways, don’t hesitate to contact us by filling out this free, no-risk, case evaluation today.