It seems like every time you turn on the news recently there is another wrong way driver who caused a crash on the Tampa Bay interstates or highways, and many of the times a death results from the accident. The whole Tampa Bay area along with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office mourned the death of Deputy John Robert Kotfila Jr., 30 when he died from a wrong way crash on the Selmon Expressway early morning March 12, 2016. The wrong way driver passed away as well.
In 2014 alone, according to the Tampa Bay Times, 16 people were killed in Tampa Bay due to wrong way crashes; a number that drew national headlines. The Florida Department of Transportation has a record of more than 100 wrong-way driving arrests in the Tampa area since April 2014. And there is one thing every single one of these arrests has in common: Alcohol.
There have been reports of at least five deaths in the Tampa Bay area just in 2016 due to wrong way crashes, including Deputy Kotfila. However, another astonishing statistic is that more than 100 deaths were reported from wrong way crashes in Florida in 2015.
The Florida Department of Transportation has initiated a program to help reduce these numbers. According to an article from News Channel 8, “Florida DOT has installed a dozen electronic warning signs around Tampa Interstate exits that activate a flashing beacon when radar sensors detect a wrong-way driver entering an exit ramp. The beacons also take pictures of the vehicle that are beamed to the DOT’s traffic control center in Tampa and the FHP so they can respond quickly and identify the wrong way vehicle. The system also activates message boards that warn other motorists. There are plans to install more than 80 additional flashing beacon systems at other exit ramps but the system is still under study for effectiveness.” The beacon system has proven effective on the Florida Turnpike System.
The Florida DOT is doing their part, however everyone should be contributing to prevent wrong way crashes. It’s as easy as not driving drunk or driving distracted. The Tampa Bay area is known for great sports, exciting amusement parks, a lively food scene, stunning views and gorgeous weather. Let’s not add “Wrong-way crash capital” to that list.