The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is continuing to investigate the tragic 19-vehicle pile-up that occurred early Sunday morning near Gainesville, Florida that left ten people dead and at least 21 people injured, according to the Gainesville Sun. Investigators attribute the accident to poor visibility due to heavy smoke from a nearby fire, fog and darkness from the pre-dawn hour. The massive crash occurred on I-75 just after the interstate was re-opened. Authorities had briefly closed the road due to the adverse conditions.
On Saturday night, a three-vehicle crash occurred when the drivers encountered the same poor conditions. In that accident, a tractor-trailer and two SUVs crashed as they headed north in the center lane of I-75, two miles south of the Williston Road exit. One person was seriously injured in the accident, according to news reports.
The series of crashes began around 4 a.m. Sunday morning when drivers on both sides of the highway were blinded by the shroud of smoke and fog over the highway. Passenger cars, SUVs, tractor-trailers and motorhomes were all included in the accident that left a trail of burned and twisted wreckage over a one-mile stretch. The first rescuers on the scene could see only inches in front of them and had to rely on cries and moans from victims for direction.
The accident left I-75 closed for hours in both directions. I-75 is the primary route through Florida that carries residents and visitors towards the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast.
Our South Florida vehicle accident attorneys echo the words of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi: “My heart and prayers are with those who lost their lives, those who suffered injuries, and those who are mourning their family members and friends.”
Various reports indicate the investigation will focus on the timing of the re-opening of the interstate and the cause of the fire that broke out Saturday in Paynes Prairie, a wildlife area that straddles the freeway near Gainesville.
According to the latest American traffic fatality data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the number of accident-related fatalities is at the lowest level in more than six decades. In fact, 2010 saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 32,885 highway deaths.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports the same trend in Florida with the number of crash fatalities in 2011, the lowest the state has reported since 1978. Last year, 2,373 people died in traffic crashes on Florida’s roadways.
In 2010, 2,444 people died in Florida traffic accidents. The 2010 data show the majority of accidents occurred in darkness – 1,234 fatal crashes happened in the nighttime hours. In addition, 265 traffic fatalities were attributed to roads that were not dry at the time of the accident.
On Monday, the Gainesville Sun issued safety tips for Florida drivers when they encounter foggy or smoky conditions. Our attorneys encourage you to consider the following when driving in poor conditions:
- Keep your headlights on low beam. High beam lights reflect off the fog and impair visibility even more.
- When you see fog, begin slowing down.
- Limit the distractions in your vehicle by turning off the radio, stop conversation and focus on the roadway.
- Stay alert. Watch for slow-moving or stopped vehicles.
- Watch the highway markings on the right side of the road for guidance.
- Stay in your lane and do not pass or change lanes.
- Pull off the road and stop if you cannot safely driver. Make sure to pull fully off the road and turn on your hazard lights.
Our South Florida personal injury attorneys will continue to keep you up on the latest traffic data and safety efforts throughout Florida. We will also continue to encourage drivers to stay alert and to drive defensively when traveling on Florida highways.
About Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney
The law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, has provided professional and compassionate legal assistance to personal injury and accident victims in South Florida and the Treasure Coast since 1975. The firm’s practice areas include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, product liability, dog bite injuries, swimming pool accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims.
Our law firm represents victims of car accidents across South Florida, including Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Okeechobee, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Vero Beach and Palm Beach, and throughout South Florida and the Treasure Coast.
Call 1-800-299-8878 now to speak with a knowledgeable Florida car accident attorney or fill out our online contact form.