State's traffic deaths a record


Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 2:34 a.m.
More than 3,400 people died in car accidents in Florida in 2005, setting a record for the second straight year as more drivers continuously crowd the state's roads.
Through Tuesday, 3,432 people died in accidents in 2005, besting last year's record of 3,257, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
''People don't know. They've become complacent with traffic deaths,'' said Sgt. Jorge Delahoz, an FHP spokesman.
Still, Delahoz said the numbers aren't quite as bad as they appear, because new drivers are continually appearing on Florida roads. The statewide fatality rate based on miles driven has actually been going down in recent years, even as death totals pile up. The 2005 rate won't be calculated until next summer.
In Alachua County, the number of people killed in fatal crashes decreased in 2005.
As of Dec. 28, there were 34 fatalities in traffic incidents in the county in 2005. At the same time in 2004, there were 49. That number increased to 50 by the end of 2004, said Lt. Mike Burroughs, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.
Safety planners know that behind every number is a tragedy.
In February, a young couple, their baby and a relative were killed in a Haines City crash. In March, a 9-year-old girl on her way to school died in Rockledge. In April, a road construction worker was killed on Florida's Turnpike in Lake County while helping to install safety guardrails.
Still, there were some bright signs. Sixty-five million dollars spent installing median guardrails along 166 miles of the turnpike has caused an immediate decline in deadly crossover crashes. Through Tuesday, 49 people had died on Florida's Turnpike this year, compared with 94 last year.
A similar guardrail program is under way on roadways throughout the state.
Sun staff writer Tiffany Pakkala contributed to this report.

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