A family road trip, especially one from the cold north to the sunny beaches of Florida, is a great way to not only explore the United States but also save money in the process. However, extended road trips can present dangers to those who fail to plan accordingly, especially if you are using outdated maps, unaccustomed to differing weather patterns, and unfamiliar with state laws. Road trip accidents are not uncommon, but there are ways to reduce your chances of involvement.
Traffic Laws Vary Throughout the States
Unfamiliarity with the rules of the road for each state you are traveling through can put you in extreme danger. For example, Florida law permits drivers to make a right turn on red in most circumstances, but this is prohibited in New York City. Accordingly, a Floridian traveling to the Big Apple may make a right turn on red that other drivers are not expecting, which can result in a serious high-speed accident. This also works in reverse, as drivers traveling from New York City may assume Florida does not allow rights on red and refuse to make the turn. This can frustrate Florida drivers who may honk or encourage the driver to proceed, which can cause distraction, hesitation, and confusion, all increasing the chances of suffering an accident.
If you are planning on taking a road trip through Florida, you should familiarize yourself with Florida's “rules of the road,”1 including:
- Seat belt Laws;
- Road Rage Laws;
- School and Construction Zone Speed Limits;
- Move Over Laws; and
- Passing Laws.
For example, Florida's “move over law” only requires you to move over one lane and slow your speed to below 20 miles per hour, while in many states the law requires you to specifically pull over to the right and come to a complete stop for a passing emergency vehicle. Accordingly, if an emergency vehicle is preparing to pass you in Florida and you immediately pull to the right and come to a complete stop, this may cause a rear-end accident because the driver behind you may not be expecting you to come to an abrupt stop in her lane. It is essential that, before you road trip, you familiarize yourself with Florida-specific road rules, which an experienced Florida personal injury attorney can assist you with.
One of the most common accidents associated with road trips is a mechanical “wear and tear” or condition accident, which occur when your vehicle suffers mechanical difficulties while traveling. According to the "After Car Accidents",2 vehicle condition crash-related factors account for approximately 7% of car crash-associated factors and most commonly include the following:
- Tire/wheel deficiencies;
- Braking system failures;
- Obstructed views/Blind spots;
- Steering problems;
- Engine failure;
- Transmission failure; and/or
- Suspension systems failure.
After putting hundreds or thousands of miles on a vehicle during an extended road trip, mechanical problems that may have not otherwise manifested during short trips may arise. Further, even if you notice a slight problem with your vehicle, such as tightness while steering or overheating, you may be hesitant to stop in an unknown state for mechanical assistance. However, any sudden mechanical failures, especially brake, steering and engine failures, on Florida's high-speed motorways can result in serious personal injuries or even death. These accidents generally result in unforeseeable vehicle movement and can be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. If you blow a tire, for example, there is no way to anticipate or control which way the car will spin and where if will eventually come to a stop.
Weather Related Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration further reports that atmospheric conditions, such as fog, rain, and snow, can be critical crash contributing factors. Weather patterns in Florida often result in unexpected thunderstorms and downpours. While Florida drivers frequently have a special sealant on their windshields to assist with heavy rains, out-of-town drivers may lose visibility during heavy storms because their vehicles, including windshields and tires, are not prepared to operate in heavy rains. This principle also applies in snow and fog, where drivers traveling from areas with lower levels of precipitation may not know how to properly operate their vehicles when faced with these atmospheric conditions. For example, nighttime fog may cause road trippers to turn on their high beams because visibility is low when, in reality, this exacerbates the problem, as the light reflects off the fog.
Avoiding Road Trip Accidents
- The key means by which drivers can avoid road trip accidents is preparation, which includes:
- Ensuring you have up-to-date maps and GPS systems, as driver distraction when navigating on unfamiliar roads can lead to auto accidents;
- Mapping out mechanics and having your car checked before starting your trip;
- Stocking up on weather supplies, including rain-resistant sprays; and
- Familiarizing yourself with the law of the states in which you will be traveling.
Further, it is wise to avoid driving at night or while you are tired. It's common for dad to want to “make good time” or “power through” certain legs of the trips, but driving at night in an unfamiliar state can be a recipe for disaster.
Contact a Clearwater, Florida Car Crash Attorney Today
Getting in a car accident when traveling, especially if you are injured, can be frightening and inconvenient. If you or a loved one were involved in a Florida car accident during a road trip, you may have questions about whether insurance will cover your damages or be accepted in Florida. You may also have questions concerning liability if you are not familiar with the “rules of the road” or Florida's procedures for reporting car accidents.
However, road trips to Florida are common, and Clearwater's premier personal injury firm, the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, has the collective experience you need to help you get back on the road after a Florida car crash. We can answer your insurance questions, assist you with police reports, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve without inconveniencing you and your family. Call our attorneys today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation or contact us online.