Florida Truck Accident Attorney
Florida Highways, Turnpikes and the Trucking Industry
Florida continues to be a rapidly growing state that lures retirees and other newcomers with its mild winters and beaches. About 19.6 million people call the Sunshine State their home. While relatively narrow in width, Florida is one of the longest states in the continental United States stretching 832 miles from near the Alabama border on the northwest, and Pensacola to Key West on the south. Despite its narrow width, Florida is still crisscrossed with highways, including 461 miles of toll highways under its Turnpike system, which serves 1.8 million motorists who use the Turnpike each day. With that many people on the roads, motor vehicles accidents involving trucks, trailers and big rigs are bound to occur. In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the 382-mile stretch of Florida’s I-95 was the deadliest road in the United States, due to the constant amount of busy traffic within Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
Florida Trucking Industry
The trucking industry in Florida dates back at least 80 years ago, when a trucking association was incorporated in Jacksonville. Despite the individual companies having little time or money to improve and promote the industry itself, population growth and the development of highways aided the industry’s efforts toward expansion. According to the Florida Trucking Association (FTA), an advocacy organization representing roughly 300 trucking companies, the trucking industry plays a major role in Florida’s economy. In the state as a whole, there are close to 30,000 trucking companies throughout Florida. More than 85 percent of the communities in Florida depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods such as fuel, agricultural produce and other products Florida’s 14 ports to thousands of locations throughout the state and nation.
Despite the number of truckers on the Florida roadways, the trucking industry highlights its safety record. The American Transportation Research Institute states that at the national level, the large-truck fatal crash rate for 2011 was 1.25 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicles miles traveled. The rate dropped by 73 percent since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping those records in 1975. The Florida Trucking Association members put safety first through improved driving training, investment in advanced safety technologies and active participation in industry safety initiatives on the local, state and national levels.
Although they continue to support safety among trucks and trucking, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has documented their findings of trucking related accidents in a 116-page report titled “Traffic Crash Facts Annual Report for 2012.” This report states a total of 4,209 fatal accidents occurred that year, including 461 involving pick-up trucks, and 174 involving medium/heavy trucks (weighing more than 10,000 pounds). Trucks, which fall under the category commercial vehicles, were responsible for 251 fatalities in 2012. Alachua County (Gainesville is the county seat) accounted for the most fatalities at 27 of Florida’s 67 counties. However, the state’s most populous county, Miami-Dade, had the most crashes involving commercial vehicles at 6,582.
Florida Truck Accident Safety and Prevention
While truck drivers in Florida might be responsible for a negligible number of fatal and injury accidents, they are also more capable of inflicting damage than collisions involving smaller vehicles. In February 2014, the Tampa-area press carried reports of an early-morning fatal accident involving a semi-trailer truck that sent a car off Interstate 75 and into the Alafia River. The accident occurred when the semi-trailer pulled out to pass a slow-moving BMW and clipped the rear of the car. The crash caused the semi-trailer to overturn on the stretch of I-75 that crosses the river. The car veered off the I-17 between the northbound and southbound lanes and plunged into the river, killing the 42-year-old motorist. The 30-year old truck driver had a troubled driving record that included more than 24 infractions over the past decade, and had his license suspended six times.
In an effort to reduce accidents involving large trucks, Florida’s Highway Safety Department announced in a news release of July 18, 2014 that its officers would start another phase of Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, a project known as TACT. The TACT campaign lasted two weeks, and involved troopers looking for car and truck drivers who displayed aggressive behavior, such as following too closely, unsafe lane changes and speeding. The Florida Highway Patrol, in the same news release, advised motorists about how to drive safely around large trucks, and states a collision between a passenger car and a tractor-trailer that is 80 feet long and weighs 20 tons could “easily turn deadly.”
Additionally, the Florida Turnpike organization has issued a $40 million safety program committed to providing a safe environment for everyone on the road. This program includes additional law enforcement along the turnpike, providing free coffee to motorists who promise to use their safety belts during busy holiday seasons, quicker response times for clearing crash scenes, and reaching out to drivers to promote motorist safely through humorous sign on remote section of the roadway to help improve alertness among drivers.
Florida Truck Accidents and Weather
In Florida, changes in the weather and sudden rainstorms can happen quickly, and without much warning. This makes the ability to see during a rainstorm challenging for anyone on the road, and particularly for those driving large vehicles. In fact, driving in a rainstorm can be one of the most dangerous times to drive for many reasons, including increased difficulty seeing other vehicles, roads signs, and even the road itself. In the trucking industry, time is of the essence. Truckers are paid for driving and delivering goods on strict deadlines, enduring all types of conditions on the road. They drive through the night without much-needed sleep in order to produce and get paid. Hurricane evacuations often involve the use of the Florida Turnpike system, and vehicles of all types including large trucks will be on the roads. Drivers encounter distractions from cell phones, global positioning system devices, non-working traffic signals, deluges of rainfall on their windshield, and other drivers speeding to find safety as quickly as possible. Here are some additional tips for driving in weather that limits visibility and speed:
- Slow down the speed of your vehicle to one that is safe for you and other motorists.
- Turn on your headlights. Not only will headlights improve some degree of visibility, but will also allow other drivers to see your vehicle from behind.
- Stick to driving in the middle lane, which is said to be “higher” by a slight degree over the other side lanes, and may keep you away from pooling water.
- Stay away from moving water; never drive through a river.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you at all times.
- Drive in the tracks of other vehicles to avoid hydroplaning.
- Avoid using cruise control, which can delay your efforts to change the speed of your vehicles at a moment’s notice.
- If you absolutely cannot see, pull over and off the road – never stop IN the roadway.
- Stay off cell phones for texting or calling until you have come to a safe and complete stop.
- NOTE: As of October 1, 2013, texting and driving in Florida became secondary infraction, and could incur a fine if caught, as well as turning your phone over to authorities.
Legal Help for Florida Truck Accident Victims
Accidents involving large trucks can involve a number of liable parties including the truck driver, the employer, the company who owns or leases the truck, or the manufacturer. Investigations are likely to be lengthy and may cover a number of factors as: who had control of the vehicle at the time, driving logs, driving history, maintenance records, past violations with the state of Florida, and manufacturing defects.
Even if you are a careful driver, you run the risk of serious and fatal accidents involving trucks. Injuries can lead to steep medical bills along with lost wages. You will need full cooperation with investigating agencies, such as the Florida Highway Patrol. Such investigations will determine who is at fault. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida truck accident, dealing with large trucking companies is best handled through an attorney who can help you settle. The team at Finz & Finz, P.C., has experienced attorneys and investigators who will review all the reports and obtain documents from truck-driving defendants along with their employers, and will aggressively fight for your interests and that of your families.
State authorities may launch their own investigation, and having a firm that can back up your claim is essential. When you enlist New York law firm Finz & Finz, P.C., you will be working with a law firm who holds the largest recorded settlement for personal injury truck accidents in the history of New York State. Our experienced team will help you when you need it the most. If you, a family member or someone you know has suffered a serious injury or death from a Florida truck or truck-related accident, contact Finz & Finz, P.C., now, toll free at (855) TOP FIRM or fill out the Free Florida Truck Accident Case Evaluation Form to start the process.