For anyone living in Pinellas or Hillsborough County, the news reports over the past year have been tragic. In 2021, traffic deaths surged by 48% in Pinellas and by 28% in Hillsborough. It seems like sad reports of horrific accidents have become the norm. Officials are scrambling to determine the causes of this horrific phenomenon. According to an article by the Tampa Bay Times, officials have theories and are working on solutions. .
Florida is a dangerous place to drive, but since the pandemic, it has gotten even worse. In addition to auto accidents, deaths to pedestrians and bicyclists are a major public safety issue. I see it every day in my personal injury and wrongful death practice. It is a horrible feeling to meet someone after an accident and to discuss the legalities of what they are going through. Nonetheless, I specialize in these accident cases and am prepared to give honest guidance through the process. This article is written to provide information on the issue and to discuss the steps that are being taken to improve safety on our roadways in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Florida is not the only state to experience an increase in deaths on its roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 43,000 people were killed across the United States in 2021. This was the highest number of deaths in 16 years. It also represented a 10.5% increase over 2020.
As bad as these numbers sound, the numbers in Florida were even worse. Florida traffic deaths increased by 13% to 3,753. The Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were no exception. In Hillsborough, 278 people were killed. This represented an increase of 28% over 2020. In Pinellas, 160 people were killed, a stunning 48% increase.
Possible Causes of Increased Traffic Deaths
Officials in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are well aware of the problem and have looked into the data. According to the Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization and Forward Pinellas, new traffic patterns have been identified as a major factor in the increase of deaths. It has been observed that more people are working from home and have more flexible schedules. Thus, rush hour is less crowded. The roads are less crowded. When there is less traffic, people are driving faster. This increase in speed happens all throughout the day. When an accident happens at high speed, there is a greater chance that someone will die.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Deaths
Pinellas County has been exceptionally dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. 61 out of the 160 people who died on Pinellas County roads in 2021 were either pedestrians or bicyclists. Many of them were killed by speeders. Forward Pinellas studied every traffic crash report and concluded that drivers did not see the pedestrians and bicyclists because they were simply driving too fast.
Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas are searching for solutions to make our roads safer. Hillsborough County plans to apply for a grant that would improve safety on its most dangerous roads. The focus for the grants would be for the top three most dangerous roads. These have been identified as Brandon Boulevard between Falkenburg and Dover roads; Gibsonton Drive from Interstate 75 to Balm Riverview Road; and Hillsborough Avenue from Longboat Boulevard to Florida Avenue.
Additionally, the Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization will focus its efforts on the 50 most dangerous roads. It might narrow the roads, add crossings, or even add more street lighting. There will be a summit at the end of the year to discuss what has been done to make Hillsborough County safer.
In Pinellas County, twelve local governments have signed on to a program called Safe Streets Pinellas, aimed at pushing forward road safety improvements. Some fixes are inexpensive such as changing signals to improve pedestrian safety. The long term goal is to design the roads with the safety of all cars, pedestrians and cyclists in mind. The adjustments will add some time to the driver’s trip, but improve safety drastically.
What Type of Case Do You Have if a Loved One Is Killed?
If a driver, a pedestrian or a bicyclist is killed in an accident, the heirs have what is called a wrongful death claim. This legal action permits the recovery of certain types of damages depending on the relationship of the heir to the decedent. These claims can be complicated to determine the exact amount of damages. For example, wrongful death claims often need an expert to determine the exact amount of financial losses.
Will an Estate Need to Be Set Up?
Yes. In every wrongful death claim, an estate is necessary. These are usually very easy to set up. A personal representative will need to be appointed to manage the claim and the decisions. Our office has four probate attorneys that assist us in establishing the estate and the personal representative. The probate lawyers are normally paid out of the proceeds of the recovery of the wrongful death claim.
Contact a Wrongful Death Accident Attorney
If you find yourself in the tragic position of losing a loved one in an accident, please contact us for a free consultation immediately. We understand the grief that you are feeling, and we will always be respectful. However, the first few days after the accident are often the most important. You will likely be in communication with law enforcement and there are tips that we can help you with. Knowing the status of the investigation is very important to establishing a successful wrongful death claim. The insurance company will not have access like you will, so use this to your advantage.
Even though you do not want to deal with the legalities of the loss of your loved one, a short call to our office can answer any questions that you might have. Sometimes our advice is as simple as telling you to wait until after you have put your loved one to rest. Whatever the situation, know that we will have you and your family’s best interest in mind throughout this difficult time.