PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Transportation leaders reached out to ABC Action News to sound the alarm on a growing problem in Tampa Bay: Speeding and aggressive driving.
Traffic is returning to Tampa Bay streets, but nowhere near the volume we’re used to seeing this time of year. All those quieter roadways are leading to some downright dangerous behavior, according to Forward Pinellas and FDOT.
Chelsea Favero, the planning manager at Forward Pinellas says the COVID-19 pandemic has led to some changes in behavior on our roadways. “With fewer cars on the road it just feels wider, more like a highway and people just drive as fast as they can and ignore the speed limit,” she explained.
New numbers from Forward Pinellas show crashes caused by speeding are up 60% in particular periods of 2020 versus 2019. Leaders at the Florida Department of Transportation say speeding has become a contributing factor in one-third of all fatal crashes.
FDOT numbers show a similar trend. In Tampa Bay, in 2018 there were 143 fatal crashes where speeding and aggressive driving were a factor. That represents about 30% of all fatal crashes, according to FDOT. in 2019, 176 crashes occured related to speeding and aggressive driving, about 37% of all fatal crashes. In 2020, that number jumped up to 224 fatal crashes related to speeding and aggresive driving, making up 43% of fatal crashes. So far in 2021, 16 fatalities are linked to speeding and aggressive behavior. Younger drivers, age 25-34 made up most of those fatal crashes.
“People are stressed. People are trying to get to work or school and it’s been a crazy time for everyone. Yet, changing lanes in and out, tailgating someone that’s a no-win situation,” Kris Carson, a spokesperson for FDOT elaborated.
Transportation leaders say overall crashes are down from the levels we saw before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the crashes we are seeing are more serious, including many involving major injuries or deaths.
“What we did see was a significant increase in crashes that resulted from a driver either running a stop sign or running a red light, speeding and intoxication,” Favero added.
Tampa Bay’s interstates and major bridges are the biggest sources of issues, according to FDOT, but Forward Pinellas leaders say speeding problems persist on smaller roads as well.
Law enforcement across Tampa Bay plan to step up patrols, but they hope you’ll help too by keeping your foot off the gas and reporting any aggressive behavior.
“Just because it feels like a freeway, the road through your community is not,” Favero said.