This Labor Day is expected to encourage throngs of travelers across Florida – more than we’ve seen in any year since 2008. People have more confidence in the economy. They’re more likely to have a little extra cash in their pockets. Plus, gas prices are down a bit, and the weather in Florida is almost always a sure bet.
According to AAA’s annual projections, we can expect some 30 million people in the U.S. taking a road trip of 50 miles or more over the weekend. While there is a palpable buzz of excitement about what, for many families, is the first real vacation in a long time – and the final “hurrah” before the start of the school year – the unfortunate reality is that more vehicles on the road is going to mean more crashes, more injuries more fatalities.
Our Tampa car accident attorneys have learned that, according to the National Safety Council, an estimated 400 people are going to die in traffic crashes this weekend. To put that into perspective, where the National Traffic Safety Administration estimates a drunk driving death every 51 minutes in any given weekend, this weekend, there is likely to be one every half hour. Put another way, every person on the road has a 1 in 88,000 chance in the car this weekend. Far more people will suffer serious and life-long injuries.
We don’t throw out these statistics to scare you, but we hope you will take notice. These figures are frightening, but the risk is not inevitable. You cannot control another driver’s decision to drink or to fiddle with the phone. However, you can control your own behind-the-wheel behavior, and that can greatly improve your odds.
First and foremost, we encourage drivers to abstain from drinking alcohol. Or if they don’t, make alternate plans for transportation. If you’re close enough to the beach or your destination, walk. Call a cab. AAA Tow to Go offers a free towing service every Labor Day weekend – from Friday afternoon through 6 a.m. Tuesday. The agency will tow your vehicle and give you a lift back home, within a 10-mile radius – no membership required. The confidential service can be tapped by calling 855-286-9246. Although towing may not be ideal, it’s a good last resort option – and a far better choice than taking your chance behind the wheel.
Consider that the penalty for drunk driving in Florida – even a first-time offense – can be up to six months behind bars, a $1,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, an interlock ignition mandate, and fees for alcohol education courses and court costs. These are light compared to what you would face if you were to actually be involved in a crash. Bear in mind, the cops will be out in full force this weekend, patrolling specifically for this purpose through the, “Drive Sober, Get Pulled Over” campaign.
Beyond securing a sober driver, travel experts advise making sure your vehicle is in good shape before even hitting the road. This means a routine check of the engine, radiator and fluids. Make sure tires are well-inflated and wiper fluid is full. Also make sure the lights, steering wheel and brakes are working, and you have an emergency kit with jumper wires, a flashlight, tool kit, tire gauge and wrenches – just in case. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a first aid kit, just in case you do end up stranded.
Drivers should also make sure to maintain concentration on the road. Have your passenger hold on to your phone, or safely store it in a bag, so you aren’t tempted. If you feel sick, fatigued or generally not up for driving, take a break. Keep in mind that large trucks are especially dangerous because they have lots of blind spots, and they can’t brake as quickly as smaller vehicles – something other drivers tend to forget. Avoid problems by making sure you are fully alert.
Finally, consider avoiding the rush by leaving early. Most people head home in the early or late evening on Monday. If you hop on the road before 4 p.m. or after 10 p.m., you will likely avoid most of the traffic. Better yet, stay another day, and head back Tuesday!
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Labor Day Driving Tips, Aug. 28, 2014, By Sarah Dray, Demand Media, USA TODAY
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