Enhance Florida Roadway Safety; Reject Bad Speed-Limit Increase Bill

By: Mike Arias | Posted: January 3, 2014 3:55 AM


Mike Arias

Mike Arias

I urge those supporting Senate Bill 392 to please reconsider their support for this legislation. It will only lead to an increase in the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities currently occurring on public roadways throughout Florida.

This is primarily due to the systemic potential safety hazards on our highways and a lack of traffic enforcement due to a shortage of state troopers to routinely patrol the roadways. FHP troopers' visual presence is essential on all public roadways.

Let me take this opportunity to advise you, if you are not already aware of these quantfiable facts, that Miami-Dade County is currently ranked No. 1 in the state, leading in all negative motor vehicle-related accident categories; and the state of Florida is currently ranked third in the nation with the great potential of moving up in rankings to eventually becoming the No. 1 most-dangerous state if these public-safety roadway issues continue to be ignored.

In addition to all of the potential safety hazards currently existing -- lack of median dividers, lack of guard rails, the absence of lights, absence of mile markers -- increasing the speed is just asking for more tragedy.

Two weeks ago on State Road 27 in Miami-Dade County, four motorists were killed due to a roadway cross-over frontal collision (no median dividers); in Broward County early last year four motorists died when their vehicle went through a chain link [fence] in front of an open body of water -- a chain link totally inadequate to stop a vehicle traveling at the current posted speed limit, let alone an increased limit. To the best of my knowledge this current safety hazard still exists at this location in Pompano at I-95, another preventable tragedy waiting to happen.

Eight lives could have been saved had the proper safety equipment been installed at these two locations, and numerous similar ones throughout the state.

As for the lack of guard rails, the majority of those installed on the sides of roadways don't have wide enough emergency shoulders to allow for a driver's "recovery" or for emergency vehicles.

No lights installed on many of the roadways -- for instance, SR 27, SR 41, SR 50, SR 60, SR 192, Alligator Alley -- makes traveling on these at night colossally hazardous.

The lack of mile marker signs on many highways increases the stress for motorists who have broken down, who need to provide an accurate location to 911 operators. Time can often be a life-or-death factor.

Apparently these public safety issues are being deferred due to a lack of money. But, unfortunately, they will not resolve themselves on their own.

To go along with the defeat of SB 392, I would like to see the estimated $850 million in surplus funds about to become available be allocated for enhancing public safety on all of Florida's public roadways. These funds will help reduce the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities (an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of them have been deemed preventable). This will also create many new jobs in the construction industry throughout the state, powerfully good for the economy. In addition, the state must hire more troopers.

Last but not least, if money still is short, we could use the $40 million spent annually to landscape our highways. The safety of 20 million residents and 80 million visitors trumps aesthetics every time.

Remember the 55 mph speed limit that used to exist across most of the nation? Think of the hundreds of billions of gallons of foreign fuel we might not have had to buy if we were still driving at 55. Think of the fewer collisions, serious injuries and fatalities we would have had as a result. Think of the safety hazards on state roads and reject increasing the speed limit even by 5 miles per hour.

A longtime resident of South Florida, Mike Arias is a roadway safety advocate and has been a certified traffic school instructor for more than 15 years. He also has spent 30 years as a public safety employee specializing in emergency vehicle fleet operations and logistics.


Tags: News, Columns

Comments (4)

Henry Stowe
12:28AM JAN 7TH 2014
This article is pure flapdoodle. The idea that the posted speed limit has any impact on fatality rates has been disproven by national statistics showing that states posting speed limits of 70 mph or better experienced larger drops in their fatality rate than states keeping 65 mph speed limits on their rural interstates.

Texas and Utah have posted 80 mph speed limits and have actually recorded drops in the number of fatalities on those stretches.

According to the Energy information administration, fleet gas mileage from 1970 to 1976 varied between 11.9 and 12.5 mpg, hardly a spastically significant change. In 1974, the first year of the 55 mph speed limit, fleet fuel economy was 12.0 mpg. It was higher in 1970-1972.

In 1974, the country experienced an oil shock which substantially curtailed miles driven, especailly discretionary travel. That was largely responsible for the drop in fatalities. In 2008-11, there was a similar drop in the fatality rate on the nation's highways, with no reduction in speed limits.

The authors arguments are largely specious, based on a desire to control the movement of people. A 55 mph speed limit will happen over my dead body.
Duke Ganote
10:07AM JAN 4TH 2014
The author clearly wasted 15 years studying rules-and-regulations instead of looking at effects: rural interstates are Florida's best designed roads, and only account for 5% of Florida's traffic deaths.
7:48PM JAN 3RD 2014
Seriously, the 55 mph limit? The one that made lawbreakers out of most drivers? FDOT has been setting speed limits based on engineering and roadway design standards since April 1996 and will keep doing so should this bill become law. I urge support for this legislation as prevailing speeds on freeways and the turnpike posted at 70 mph are 75 mph or higher.
robert stevens
12:32PM JAN 3RD 2014
While your insight on SE Florida is spot on, the idea behind the bill is to ALLOW the state to raise the limit on rural interstate roads. There is absolutely NO comparison between I95 in Dade/Broward and the Turnpike in central Florida. There is NO mention of increasing the speed in congested areas - just allowing the outlying rural areas to have the 75MPH option. There are far greater fatalities in Broward / Dade at 55-60 mph then in Lake and OSceola county at 70 mph. Also the 55 mph speed limit is a moot point - vehicles are now built with far greater fuel efficient engines and lighter weight materials.. That is why the avg fuel economies have triples since the ridiculous 55 mph era.

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