2003 Highest Number of Traffic Fatalities Ever in Florida

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New statistics show a record number of people died in traffic crashes in Florida last year. Motorists drinking and driving and not using seatbelts continue to be major reasons why people don't survive crashes. The police officers who see the tragedies firsthand are frustrated that so many of these deaths could be prevented.

3,179 people died in traffic crashes in Florida last year, the highest number on record.

Sgt. Dave Folsom of the Tallahassee Police Department sees too many of them. He's haunted by the memory of one involving a little girl who wasn't wearing a seat belt.

“She'd had her little fingernails just painted just before the crash. They were pink, and I remember she'd just left a little party and she's six years old, and I stopped and bought a stuffed animal and brought it to the hospital. I mean she never saw it, but even to this day it still bothers me.”

You hear a lot about improperly installed car seats but parents are also not belting in their older kids. Seventy percent of children 4-17 killed in crashes last year were not wearing seatbelts.

Alcohol-related fatalities also hit a new high last year. 1096 people killed. Authorities are frustrated because their education efforts just don't seem to be getting through to some people.

Maj. Ernesto Duarte of the Florid Highway Patrol’s Headquarters in the Capitol told us all it takes is a little common sense.

“These are not just dry statistics, that people are actually dying and if they were to take just a moment of time to call for someone else, or not drinking and driving or just taking an extra second to click in, we would save a lot more people each year.”

There is some good news. The death rate in Florida is now at a record-low 1.7 deaths per 100 million miles driven, thanks in large part to safer cars, but police say even the safest car is no match for an irresponsible driver.

Drivers from age 15 to 19 had the highest rate of fatal crashes last year in Florida, followed by drivers 21-24. The most dangerous time to be on the road in Florida is Friday during the 4 p.m. rush hour, when the highest number of crashes occurs.

The most deadly time to be on the road is 2 a.m. on Sunday, when the highest numbers of fatal crashes happen.