Florida is known for things like its beautiful beaches, world-class resorts, and a whole lot of oranges – however, a couple of studies are making a strong case to add car crash drownings to that list.
According to a review of federal crash data from 2008 to 2012 conducted by the Orlando Sentinel, 49 people drowned in their vehicles after crashing during that time.
49 may only make up a mere fraction of the total number of people who died in accidents in Florida during those five years, but Florida drivers are far more likely to die in crash-related drownings than drivers in any other state. The next state, Texas, only reported 18 of these deaths between 2008 and 2012. You would need to add the next three deadliest states – Indiana with 14, and both Louisiana and Arizona with 10 – to get in the same range as Florida.
An earlier review of crash data from 2004 to 2007 conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that Florida averaged 57 crash-related drownings every single year, which makes up more than 2 percent of the state’s crash-related deaths each year – approximately double the national average.
These numbers are believed to be noticeably higher because the NHTSA included death certificate records in their review, and discovered hundreds of these deaths were reported differently by law enforcement agencies. Because death certificates aren’t public records, the Orlando Sentinel was unable to use them during their review, but it’s likely that their numbers would dramatically increase to be more in line with the federal study’s if that information was included.
“My gut instinct — not as a physician but just as a regular person — is that it must be horrifying,” said Dr. Jan Garavaglia, a medical examiner for Osceola and Orange when asked about these types of deaths. “I'm sure they must be fighting to get out.”
Joe Santos, a Florida Department of Transportation safety engineer, commented to the Orlando Sentinel that the most likely reason for the disproportionate number of crash-related drownings in Florida is the fact that so many roads in the state border water, including naturally-occurring water and man-made retention ponds, which road builders are required to dig alongside thoroughfares as mandated by state and local environmental regulations.
Others, like Gerald Dworkin, a firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) with 40 years of experience, questioned whether there are enough guardrails lining the roads, and if they are even built to federal safety standards.
“More and more, these barriers need to be re-erected to keep people from going off roads and into canals,” he said to the Orlando Sentinel.
He estimated that anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 vehicles end up in the water across the nation each year, and the NHTSA study found that these types of crashes become even more dangerous when the car rolls over. According to their study, 63 percent of drownings occurred in rolled over vehicles.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, the most important thing is to keep calm and immediately remove your seatbelt, which may require you to cut the belt itself if the release mechanism was damaged in the crash. It will be nearly impossible to open the door due to the pressure the surrounding water is placing on your vehicle, so either roll down or break the nearest window and climb out that way.
If you or someone you love was involved in one of these catastrophic accidents, our Tampa personal injury attorneys at Givens Givens Sparks are ready to provide you with the legal assistance you require. With more than 135 years of collective experience, we understand how to navigate and handle these types of cases, and can help you put together a plan of action that will allow you to recover the maximum compensation possible. Give us a call at (813) 336-3348 to speak with a member of our firm, or fill out our online form to get started with a free case evaluation.