JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There are many tragic ways to die in an automobile.
And Florida seems to be a bad place to pass away in one, according to three recent news releases that crossed our path this week.
For example, as Memorial Day weekend trips loom in just over a month, let’s talk about death statistics of those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Florida has seen a 6 percent decrease in DUI fatalities across the state from 2012 to 2017, according to statistics compiled by a new ValuePenguin.com report. But its review of statistics as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows Jacksonville is the third-worst largest city in Florida when it comes to getting involved in a deadly drunk-driving crash. Among small Florida communities, Atlantic Beach is the second worst and Yulee is the fourth, the report said.
Any DUI fatality is a sad occurrence, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan said. And there are so many ways to avoid it, from using a taxi or ride-share to just setting up a designated driver before drinking, he said.
“Those are issues that don’t have to happen and are 100 percent preventable,” Bryan said. “We are not saying you shouldn’t cherish a good time with family and friends. Just do it safely. ... avoid getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. Make a plan before you start drinking about how you will get home later that evening.”
A car doesn’t have to be moving to cause death, according to KidsAndCars.org, which reminded everyone that Wednesday was National Heatstroke Prevention Day.
Last year was the worst in U.S. history for deaths of children left in hot cars, with 51 children killed, up from 43 the year before, according to KidsAndCars.org’s database at kidsandcars.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/National-Stats-Chart-2019-1.jpg.
One of those was a 7-month-old baby who died June 19 in a hot car outside a Kingsland, Ga., motel. The mother was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and cruelty to children after officers were called to a Quality Inn and found the boy’s stiff body in a car. The coroner’s office determined the child died from hypothermia. The mother was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to court records.
Then there’s headlights and enlightening news about Florida driving at night from AAA.
Florida’s highest fatality rate, 56 percent, comes for drivers and pedestrians killed in the dark of night, according to nighttime crash data sourced by AAA from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the Central Florida-based automobile association believes American roadways could be made safer via headlight technology already in use in Europe and Canada.
AAA claims most low beams are insufficient at speeds above 39 mph, while 64 percent of Americans do not regularly use their high beams and don’t have enough time to react to something in the roadway. New research finds that adaptive driving beam headlights used overseas, with a built-in camera to scan approaching cars and vary headlight output automatically, increased roadway lighting up to 86 percent compared to U.S. low-beam headlights, AAA said. Federal headlight standards prohibit adaptive technology in the United States, but AAA supports changing the law to allow the system to be used here.
Jacksonville drivers won’t need headlights to see three upcoming traffic issues:
• A major repair project at Jacksonville International Airport’s parking garages means parts of them will be closed temporarily, according to airport officials. Customers should follow posted signs to access available parking and arrive two hours before departure to ensure enough time for parking, check-in and security. The project should be done in late 2020. For parking information call (904) 741-2277.
• Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission hosts its seventh annual Earth Day Downtown Cleanup from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday. So drivers should watch out for volunteers picking up litter along Liberty, Water, Jefferson and Church streets, as well as more working with Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council to spruce up Union and State streets from North Market Street to Main Street.