Highway Deaths Soaring in Florida

Florida's highway deaths have hit a new record high. At least 3,515 people died on the roads in 2005. Public safety officials are pleading with drivers to put down that cell phone, save the sandwich for later and focus on the road ahead.

You see them every day, maybe in the car next to you, drivers multi-tasking behind the wheel. Highway safety officials believe distracted driving is one of the reasons a record-high 3515 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Florida last year.

More people are killed on our roads and highways than were killed in the 9/11 attacks. The state is launching a new campaign called “Stay Alive, Just Drive.” It’s aimed at getting motorists to focus on what they're doing.

Police acknowledge they don't have hard numbers on how big a problem distracted driving is because it's just not something people admit to. But Highway Safety Director Fred Dickenson says he sees too many drivers focusing on everything but the road ahead.

“Dogs, kids, other people in the car, I see people shaving, putting on makeup.”

Traffic fatalities increased nine percent last year, and although a lot of that has to do with many more people on the roads, many of them just aren't paying attention.

And many drivers aren't paying attention to speed limits, either. One out of every three crash deaths is caused by speeding. Florida Highway Patrol COL Chris Knight says troopers routinely ticket drivers blasting along at well over 100 miles an hour.

“People have to remember that driving is a privilege, not a right, and when it gets to the point where their driver's license is suspended, maybe that will get their attention.”

But FHP admits it's understaffed, and troopers can only be so many places at once. They hope this new safety campaign will encourage more motorists to start thinking and driving responsibly before it's too late.

As part of the “Stay Alive, Just Drive” campaign, troopers are going on a special offensive over the next several days to crack down on speeders. All 1,800 troopers will be on the road and in the air, watching for violators.

And Tyndall Air Force Base announced effective immediately, all airmen, family members and visitors operating a vehicle on Tyndall are required to pull over or use a hands-free device to talk on a cellular phone.

Both military members and civilians who violate the regulation will receive three points against their on-base driving record, and military members could face non-judicial punishment.

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