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OPINION: Tampa drivers need to steer the city toward safer roads

Car crash fatalities in Tampa reached an all-time high last year. Drivers need to work to bring the number down. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

Roads in Tampa are becoming deadlier, with a record high of 255 fatal crashes last year, as stated in a 2022 report by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV).

Hillsborough County officials have stepped in and implemented programs to try to make the roads safer, and it’s time drivers start doing their part by not driving while impaired or distracted.

In 2019 and 2020, car crash fatalities reached 219 and 213, respectively. In response to the increase seen last year, Hillsborough County legislators established the Vision Zero Action Plan in 2021 with the goal of reducing fatalities to zero.

This plan involves updating necessary codes and standards, implementing better road design and working with first responders to make sure they react quickly to severe crashes.

This plan has already led to safety improvements across the city, starting with the intersection of Columbus Drive and 13th Street, a particularly dangerous area. 

“Many crashes involved a pedestrian and so we needed to accommodate safer crossings. That was one of the first priorities for tackling a project like this,” Brandi Milkus, infrastructure and mobility program coordinator, said in a March 16 interview with ABC Action News.

These improvements include wider sidewalks, more parking and high-visibility crosswalks with flashing lights. The improvements make it safer for cars, pedestrians and cyclists to navigate this road and reduce the risk of fatal crashes. 

City officials clearly care enough about this issue to take action, but their changes will only go so far if drivers don’t alter their behavior on the road. 

Last year Tampa was ranked fourth worst city for car accidents and 31st for worst drivers across the country, as stated in a 2021 report by Quotewizard.

Impaired driving is a major issue in Tampa. Throughout 2021, the FHSMV reported there were 411 crashes, 24 fatalities and 249 injuries in Hillsborough County resulting from drunk driving alone. Driving under the influence of drugs resulted in another 18 fatalities. These are 42 deaths and hundreds of injuries that were preventable.

There are plenty of ways for Tampa drivers to help reduce drunk driving. Getting behind the wheel is never a good idea for someone who is even slightly intoxicated. Uber, Lyft or even calling a friend are much safer options. AAA even has a Tow to Go service, available on major holidays, that will give intoxicated people and their vehicles a free ride home. 

Another major cause of car crashes across the state is distracted driving. It resulted in 333 fatal crashes in Florida in 2021, according to a press release by the FHSMV. This is the highest this figure has been in eight years. Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car crashes in Tampa, as stated by the law firm Winters & Yonker

Distracted driving includes texting, looking through social media, eating and drinking and anything else that takes the driver’s attention off the road. Focusing only on the road while driving is simple enough, but it saves lives.

There have been 77 people killed in car crashes in Hillsborough County already this year, as reported by the FHSMV. If drivers don’t join legislators in trying to prevent this number from growing, Tampa is on track for another deadly year.

Drivers need to stay sober and focused while on the road to make Tampa roads safer for everyone.