An Osceola County, Florida accident on Monday killed one man and injured five, according to news reports. Sources indicate that the driver was Andy Martinez, 24, and that the one-car accident was caused by a blown tire. Police have not released the identity of the man who died, and no charges have yet been filed as the Florida Highway Patrol continues to investigate the accident.
The crash occurred around 9:30 A.M. on the Florida Turnpike just north of Yeehaw Junction, reports indicate. Martinez’s 1999 Ford Explorer was headed north at the time, carrying passengers Angelica Martinez, 22, Ashley Fowler, 22, Hilda Insante, 10, and Arturo Martinez, 14, as well as the unnamed male victim who was killed. As the group was headed down the highway, a tire on the vehicle blew out, causing Martinez to lose control of the vehicle. So far, it is unclear exactly what caused the tire to blow out, whether the vehicle had struck an object on the road or the tire itself was defective.
The SUV ended up overturning several times, rolling into the median and southbound lanes. Luckily, no other vehicles became entangled in the accident. Angelica Martinez, Ashley Fowler, Hilda Insante, and the fatal victim were reportedly not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the vehicle. Martinez and another passenger, Arturo Martinez, were buckled up and were able to stay put.
As many as five air rescue helicopters arrived at the scene to rush the victims to nearby hospitals, sources say. Florida Highway Patrol shut down the southbound lanes of the Turnpike at mile marker 195 for several hours while they investigated the scene of the crash. The condition of the victims, three of which were airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center and the rest to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, is unknown.
This accident, along with others in Florida, is no anomaly. Statistics have shown that more people have died in Palm Beach and Broward County in vehicle related accidents this year than last year. News sources reported that, as of July 31, 85 people have died in traffic accidents in Palm Beach County this year. That is eight more deaths than last year at this same time. In Broward County, the death toll is at 106, compared to 87 the previous year. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, if this number continues to grow at this pace, both counties may surpass the number of total traffic related deaths they experienced in 2011 – 100 in Palm Beach and 122 in Broward County.
Sources say this increase in traffic accidents may be a result of more distracted drivers who are busy talking and sending text messages on their cell phones. “I know for a fact distractions play a large role in traffic crashes,” a Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant told reporters. “We need to attack driver distraction like we did with DUI and seat belts.”
Currently, there are no laws in Florida that prevent drivers from using their cell phones, which a Florida State Representative has pointed out as a flaw. “You can’t give a distracted driving ticket in the state of Florida,” the representative told reporters. He went on to say that the majority of the distractions include pedestrians and bicyclists. He also noted that no road safety laws were passed within the last two years, but that he is working to pass a law that would make it illegal for drivers to text while operating a vehicle.
Sources reported that traffic safety officials aren’t so sure that the recent incline in accidents is any cause for alarm, telling reporters that between 2006 and 2010, traffic related deaths had declined 30 percent in Broward and Palm Beach county. The officials noted that the increase in traffic accidents this year might only be a statistical bump. “It’s not unusual to see a downward trend and then see a [increase],” a manager of the Florida Department of Transportation Safety Office told reporters.