Tampa’s roads and highways see dozens of traffic accidents each day, ranging from minor crashes with few injuries to fatal multi-car accidents. Crashes occur for various reasons related to driver behavior, environmental factors, and mechanical issues, but some things lead to traffic crashes more often than others. Government agencies and other organizations that study traffic safety agree that negligent driving behaviors lead to the most collisions in Tampa, throughout Florida, and across the nation.
However, the specific driving behavior responsible for most accidents in Tampa differs between fatal and non-fatal collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding is the most common cause of fatal collisions.
Speeding and Distracted Driving Occur Frequently
The NHTSA estimates that over 25 percent of all traffic fatalities involve speeding, accounting for about 17 percent of all fatal traffic accidents. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that speed-related accidents affect more than 30,000 people each year across the state, including hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries.
Florida’s numbers are lower than the national rate, but drivers in Tampa still face the risk of accident and injury when they encounter speeders on the road.
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving accounts for 15 percent of all traffic accidents across the nation and nine percent of fatal accidents. The FLHSMV estimates 130,000 people are involved in distracted driving-related accidents on Florida’s roads each year. Fortunately, more than 85,000 walk away unscathed. Florida crash statistics align with national statistics to the extent that distracted driving is the number one cause of non-fatal collisions in the state. Specific data for the Tampa area is unavailable, but city and county crash trends often resemble statewide trends.
Speeding Citations in Tampa
When they think about speeding citations, most people think of a driver traveling over the posted speed limit. However, traveling too fast for road, weather, or traffic conditions can also lead to a speeding ticket. In Florida, police officers have the discretion to decide when a driver deserves a citation for going too fast, regardless of the posted speed limit. Traveling too fast for conditions typically causes more accidents resulting in severe or fatal injuries.
Florida law prohibits drivers from operating their vehicles on a highway unreasonably or imprudently for conditions, including actual and potential road hazards.
The law also states scenarios in which drivers must slow down, including:
- When they approach an intersection or railroad crossing
- When approaching the top of a hill
- When driving on narrow or curvy roads or highways
- When traffic is heavy
- When pedestrians are nearby
- When weather or road conditions are poor
Those who speed can cause a dangerous traffic crash, but they also face fines if they receive a ticket. If the accident leads to fatalities, speeders who cause a Tampa collision face vehicular manslaughter charges. Florida, like most states, doubles fines for speeding in construction zones and for traveling more than 20 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. Property damage from speeding can also lead to higher fines. Drivers who travel 50 miles per hour over the posted speed limit face reckless driving tickets.
Types of Speeders
The dangers of speeding have made it a popular research subject for federal and state agencies that study traffic safety. Agencies like the NHTSA have not been able to nail down a specific cause for speeding, but they have identified common motivations for speeding and various speeding patterns among motorists.
According to the NHTSA, the four major types of speeders include:
These speeders typically do not speed, and they do not speed excessively when they do. Incidental speeders only speed on a few of their trips and do not speed their entire trip. Incidental speeders typically do not speed on purpose. Incidental speeding is the place where speeding and distracted driving intersect. Many incidental speeders are daydreaming or distracted by some other activity.
Drivers who do not regularly speed but sometimes choose to speed on a trip are situational speeders. According to the NHTSA, situational speeders speed when they have what they perceive is a good reason to put the pedal to the metal. Motivations for situational speeders vary but can include heavy traffic, sleeping late, running late for appointments, work, or other obligations.
Sometimes distracted driving leads to casual speeding, but the NHTSA attributes most casual speeding to systematic behaviors. Regular speeders often speed, but not usually for the whole portion of a trip. For example, someone might choose to speed heavily while traveling on I-275 in Tampa but follow posted speed limits when they get off the interstate.
The NHTSA refers to people who speed almost all the time as habitual speeders. Habitual speeders almost always travel over the posted speed limit, whether on the interstate or in residential areas. They have the highest risk of losing control of their vehicle and causing a dangerous collision.
The NHTSA also reports common trends in speeding-related to driver demographics.
These trends include:
- Older females are less likely to speed than young males and females in some speed ranges.
- Motorists are more likely to travel over the speed limit on weekends and during rush hour.
- Speeding is associated with reckless driving and road rage in many speed ranges.
- Drivers who feel influenced by others to obey the posted speed limit are less likely to speed.
Why Speeding Leads to Deadly Collisions in Tampa
Everyone sometimes speeds, even if they accidentally go over the speed limit. This might make it hard to believe that speeding is the leading cause of fatal collisions. However, when you look at what happens during a collision, it’s easy to see how speeding leads to more fatal collisions.
Basic principles of physics explain how speeding threatens lives during a crash. The force of impact during a crash depends on a vehicle’s weight and acceleration. More force upon impact translates to a higher chance of life-threatening injuries, and force increases with increased speed. The heaviest vehicles, such as semi-trucks, that speed are the most dangerous on Tampa’s roads, but
Consequences of Speeding for Tampa Drivers
Speeding leads to severe or fatal crashes. Yet, speeders risk other consequences, some of which explain how speeding can indirectly contribute to a collision. The NHTSA reports consequences that include:
Loss of Vehicle Control
Operating a vehicle safely means having complete control while driving. Speeding makes it more difficult for drivers to keep control of their vehicles, especially when they encounter road hazards, such as animals or potholes. Speeding around curves or on a winding road also makes it challenging for drivers to maintain control.
Less Effective Safety Equipment
Auto manufacturers speed-test seat belts and airbags to optimize their performance during a collision before putting a new vehicle on the market. Companies rely on crash test dummies to ensure safety equipment works well at high speeds. However, once a vehicle travels past a certain speed, airbags and seat belts are not as effective and do not prevent serious or fatal injuries during a crash.
Increased Stopping Distance
According to NHTSA, drivers take about 1.5 seconds to react to a road hazard or other information on the road. Increased speed means a vehicle travels further during the 1.5 seconds of reaction time. Reaction time does not include braking distance, which also increases with speed.
A vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour needs 63 feet to reach a complete stop, and a vehicle traveling at 70 miles per hour needs 387 feet to stop. Once a driver doubles their speed, they need four times the stopping distance. Speeders who don’t account for this increase sometimes cause dangerous accidents.
Negative Financial Impact
As previously mentioned, speeding causes more severe collisions that translate to more property damage, more costly injuries, and increased time for healing, forcing people to take time away from work. Injuries from a traffic collision sometimes require families to hire outside help to perform tasks their injured family member can no longer do.
For example, families might need someone to help with lawn care, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child care. Those who suffer permanent injuries sometimes need to modify their home to make it more accessible by adding handrails, a wheelchair ramp, and other things to help them function in their home.
Spending additional money after injuries, especially when victims cannot bring in income from work, sometimes places a massive economic burden on households.
Using Cell Phones on Florida Roads
People commonly think of cell phone use when distracted driving comes to mind. Since cell phones have become commonplace, federal and state agencies have made persistent efforts to stop drivers from using them while driving. Cell phone-related accidents have decreased over the years on a national, state, and local level, but they still occur far too often.
In 2019, Florida changed its laws to prevent cell phone use while driving.
Before the new laws, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and Tampa police could only issue a citation to a driver for texting and driving if they pulled them over for another violation, such as running a traffic light or speeding. Texting and driving was a secondary offense. The change in Florida law made texting and driving a primary offense, so law enforcement can pull a driver over and give them a ticket if they see they are using their cell phone.
Even with the new law, Florida does not prohibit drivers from cell phone use. Drivers can use their phones with hands-free technology, such as voice activation or a headset. Most new vehicles come standard with Bluetooth technology, making it easier for drivers to avoid taking their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. However, some drivers do not follow the rules and put others at risk of accident and injury.
Common Driving Distractions for Tampa Drivers
Driving distractions include any activity that manually, visually, or cognitively interferes with a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely. Texting is the most dangerous distracted driving behavior because it distracts drivers on all three levels. However, drivers succumb to other distractions besides cell phones.
Here are some examples of other common driving distractions that sometimes lead to severe accidents:
- Brushing hair, applying makeup, putting on jewelry, and other personal grooming
- Adjusting audio or climate controls and other vehicle features, such as mirrors or seats
- Drinking and eating snacks
- Looking at and conversing with passengers
- Focusing on other events or objects outside the vehicle, such as animals, billboards, or a traffic accident
- Tending to backseat passengers, especially small children
- Lighting cigarettes
- Reaching for dropped items in the backseat or on the floor
Distracted drivers struggle to react to regular information on the road, such as stop signs, curves, and traffic lights. They especially struggle to react to other vehicles that suddenly stop or make quick maneuvers. If a distracted driver sees the information they need, it’s often too late to avoid a traffic accident.
Distracted driving combined with speeding can lead to some of the most treacherous traffic collisions in Tampa and throughout the state. If you’ve suffered injuries in a Tampa collision, contact an experienced accident injury attorney as soon as possible to learn about your eligibility to receive compensation for damages.