Natural gas rates are going up.
A new study from the Montreal Public Health Department, published in the American Journal on Public Health, suggests that those who live in neighborhoods with low incomes are more likely to be injured in car accidents when compared with car accident victims from more affluent communities. According to the researchers, children are especially susceptible to the economic gap, with children from less well-off neighborhoods being 7.3 times more likely to be hurt as pedestrians in a car accident when compared with children from wealthier communities.
Researchers completed the study by examining neighborhoods in Montreal, Canada by average household income and by comparing traffic accident injuries in each neighborhood between 1999 and 2004. There may be many reasons why lower-income neighborhoods have the troublingly higher rate of car accident injuries, and many of the findings may also be applicable to Miami car accidents:
1) Lower-income neighborhoods may have more traffic. According to the study authors, some lower-income neighborhoods have twice as much traffic and busier streets. While affluent neighborhoods often have residential areas that are well out of the way of noisy traffic, lower-income neighborhoods may have more mixed-use areas and may have more traffic. In Miami, that can mean more Miami traffic accidents.
2) Lower-income neighborhoods have a higher population density. Lower-income areas tend, generally, to have more residents and more businesses, while higher-income areas usually have larger homes, more spaces between buildings, and thus a lower population density. That can mean more people and more cars in low-income areas competing for space, which in turn can mean more congestion and more traffic accidents.
3) Lower-income neighborhoods have residents with less access to cars, meaning that more people walk. According to the study, lower-income pedestrians were 6.6 times more likely to be injured by a vehicle. The study also suggests that Miami bicycle accidents may be a problem in lower-income areas, as cyclists in less affluent neighborhoods were 3.9 times more likely to be injured by a vehicle when compared with cyclists in wealthier areas.
4) Lower-income neighborhoods may be less well funded in terms of signage and infrastructure. Higher-income neighborhoods often have groups dedicated to ensuring that the community stays attractive, with well-paved roads and with correct signage. There may be less pressure on cities to beautify lower-income areas, and higher traffic in these areas can mean that streets are in less pristine condition, paving the way for accidents.
In the past, some cities in Florida have suggested charging a “crash tax” to the insurance companies of drivers who cause accidents. Currently, a number of cities across the nation charge such a fee, which ranges from about 0 to ,000, on average. Lately, Tampa has been contemplating such a move.
Tampa Councilman Curtis Stokes is one of the individuals who supports such a fee. In the media, he has noted that currently clean-up costs after an accident are absorbed by a city and its taxpayers, while such a fee scheduled would ensure that the expense of clean-up would go towards the insurance costs of the at-fault driver. The money from the insurance providers, he believes, could be placed in a trust fund to help pay for related Florida car accident expenses, such as public safety expenses.
A law signed in 2009 by Gov. Charlie Crist may pose a legal challenge to such a fee. That law effectively bans fees levied for investigation or response costs. In the past few years, a number of states — Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee among them – have passed similar laws to protect drivers and insurance companies from such costs.
A number of South Florida cities, on the other hand, are working with contractors to recover costs associated with fire-rescue services provided at Florida car accident scenes. Collection agencies, consultants, and private billing have also suggested to governments that they could build revenues by charging accident fees as well. Now that many governments are facing revenue issues and tightening belts, an added source of revenue is very appealing.
Those who support the fees note that crash taxes ensure that those who are responsible for Florida car accidents contribute to the costs of the accidents. Supporters also note that such fees increase city revenues while reducing the burden on the tax payer. Further, there have been claims made that such fees would add to the financial burden of at-fault drivers, making drivers more cautious on the roads. Opponents of the fees note that insurance companies would pass the costs of the fees to insurance holders, potentially raising insurance costs for all drivers – not just those who cause accidents. They also note that such a move might not help reduce Florida pedestrian accident and car accident rates.
When one reads about Florida pedestrian accidents and fatal car accidents, it’s easy to think that there’s nothing that can be done. However, every driver and pedestrian on the roads has several options to ensure everyone’s safety:
1) Become a good driver. Everyone thinks they are a good driver, but most of us have trouble spots and bad habits that can easily lead to a Florida car accident. The only way to find out whether you have any deadly habits is to get the input of a professional driving instructor. An instructor can evaluate your driving skills and can suggest ways to improve your driving. Racing school and defensive driving courses are two other ways to ensure that you are safe on the roads.
2) Get aware. Read up about the latest news and studies regarding Florida car accidents. Find out which intersections and risky behaviors have the highest rates of crashes. Keep up to date about car recalls to see whether your vehicle is affected.
3) Get involved. If you do spot any problems that can lead to a car accident – such as a dangerous interaction or poor lighting along a stretch of road – write to your elected representatives and your local newspaper. Sign petitions to suggest new laws which can make the streets safer for everyone. Join the public discussion and the effort to make driving safe.
5) Become responsible. It all starts with you. When you avoid drinking and driving and swear off distracted driving, you make the roads a little bit safer. When you decide to take a taxi rather than drive distracted, you may be taking a very small step that can help prevent a Florida car accident. Don’t make excuses. Instead, make the right decision to do the right thing. It’s easy to blame the other “bad” drivers out there, but if more people were responsible for their own driving, we’d see fewer Florida car accidents.
Gainesville Police recently teamed up with University of Florida police officers and Alachua County deputies for a pedestrian safety initiative after the area was seeing about three Florida pedestrian accidents a week. As part of the campaign, the police initiated a two-week-long crackdown on drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists who were not obeying crosswalk laws. The crackdown resulted in 153 citations and increased public awareness about crosswalk laws.
Florida law gives pedestrians right of way, meaning that motorists must stop or yield when pedestrians enter crosswalks in order to allow the pedestrians to cross the street. Motorists are also required to stop or yield for pedestrians entering intersections that do not have markings.
Police say that motorists appear to be getting the message. When a similar campaign was held earlier in the year, 1 177 citations were issued. The enforcement and increased education campaigns about crosswalk rules may be helping. The fines in place for violators may be an incentive, also. Motorists who do not yield to pedestrians at intersections or crosswalks face fines of 4.
In addition to targeting motorists, police were also targeting pedestrians and bicyclists who do not follow the rules. Pedestrians are expected to use crosswalks and intersections where they are available, rather than darting out into traffic. Pedestrians who choose not to use available intersections or crosswalks may face fines of .50. Pedestrians as well as bicyclists are expected to always obey traffic signs and lights, even when it safe for them to proceed around or in between cars.
Since Florida car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists are an issue across the country, other areas – including Miami – may wish to consider adopting similar crackdowns as well as educational campaigns. The effort appears to have helped Gainesville residents appreciate the importance of crosswalk laws. Perhaps the same efforts could make Miami streets and other Florida streets safer as well.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has released new statistics showing that the number of fatal Florida car accidents is lower. Fatal car accident rates are also dropping in Georgia and nationally, even though the number of miles Americans drive is actually increasing. This has led many experts to weigh in on why the rate of accidents seems to be dropping. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, car accident fatalities in 2009 have declined to 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, compared to 2008’s 1.26 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven. During the same time period, the total car miles driven in the US increased by 0.2%.
Fatal Florida car accidents have dropped even more than the national rate. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of Florida traffic accident fatalities decreased by over 400 deaths. The drop has many questioning whether the decrease is permanent, cyclical, or related to a specific set of factors. The numbers, while welcome, have many people questioning the cause of the decrease. Some federal officials claim that the change is permanent. Other possible reasons for the good news might be:
1) A poor economy. Some experts believe that fewer people are driving often due to less expendable income. With less money, experts argue, fewer people are traveling or going on unnecessary trips and fewer people on the roads means fewer car accidents.
2) Better drivers. An administrator with the National Highway Transportation Safety believes that drivers are getting the message from public service announcements and are taking better precautions, such as wearing seatbelts and choosing not to drive under the influence.
3) Less driving. At least one Florida’s sheriff’s department claims that Florida car accidents are decreased because fewer are driving. In fact, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, in Florida the number of vehicle miles driven in 2009 decreased by 2%. With fewer people driving in the state, it is possible that some Florida pedestrian accidents and car accidents are simply being avoided.
4) Safer cars. Both car manufacturers and some police departments believe that safer cars may be contributing to fewer fatalities in Florida car accidents. Passenger side airbags, for example, are now standard in many newer vehicles, possibly meaning fewer Florida brain injuries in collisions and therefore fewer fatalities.
5) Laws. New laws are being developed all the time to make Florida safer. For example, as of July 2009, a new primary seat belt allows police to pull over Florida drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Prior to that new law, police had to pull over drivers for another reason and could not pull over a motorist just for not wearing a seatbelt. As well, Florida has a tough law for motorists with multiple accidents. Any Florida driver who has three or more at-fault car accidents within a three year period is required to take driving school in order to brush up on their driving skills.