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  • Ren Gudino

The Deadliest Interstate: I-95 & A Decade of Fatalities

In the last blog post, I gave both a haunted and historical road trip down I-95 from Maine to Florida. For believers of the supernatural, there’s so much history along this interstate that there’s little-to-no doubt that it’s probably haunted. Here’s the twist: Interstate 95 has continued to be one of the deadliest interstates in the US over the past decade.

As of March 2022, the “Fort Lauderdale Mile” was named the deadliest stretch of a mile in the US: the exit ramp to State Road 84 from Interstate 95. This study's statistics between 2000 to 2019 showed 23 fatal crashes and 24 deaths. This mile had 50 times the number of fatal crashes than the average highway mile: “...if you were to drive through it at 60 miles per hour, you would pass the site of a fatal crash every 2.6 seconds” (Elk + Elk). Arias, a retired Miami-Dade Fire Rescue traffic officer, attributes the deaths in this area to a collective number of issues: poor visibility of roadway and overhead signs, complicated entrance and exit ramps, high speeds, lousy lighting, and a higher number of tourists in the area. These seem like clear issues with simple enough solutions, which wasn’t always how people handled I-95’s fatality statistics.

In 2010, The Jacksonville Times-Union wrote that in the four-year span of 2004-2008, the NHTSA calculated a total of 662 fatal accidents and 765 deaths: 1.73 accidents for every mile. The FDOT safety engineer, Benjamin Jacobs, said the results were logical: the areas with higher population and tourism would have higher fatalities. When asked why that wasn’t true for every site with higher fatalities, his response was, “It could also just be an aberration during those years,” and suggested a state study to truly find where the issues are. Bill Leeper, the Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant, blames user error, denying that there’s an issue with I-95 “if you drive appropriately.”

Six years later, I-95 handed over its crown to I-4, becoming the second deadliest interstate, with over 200 fatalities in 2016. This doesn’t mean that the fatality rate decreased much. This article attributed the numbers to specific events such as holidays or significant events: occasions where people are more likely to be intoxicated and the highways are more likely to be congested. Interstate 4 is also in Florida but stretches the state from east to west–and it quickly returned to lower positions with I-95 back at number one.

More recent articles give thought-out reasoning behind why I-95 is the deadliest interstate. Pragmatically speaking, it’s just a long interstate. It stretches about 1,908 miles from Florida to Maine and serves approximately 110 million people. Even though Florida only takes up 20% of the interstate length, it accounts for over 33% of the fatalities. The second major factor is population density. The Sunrise Boulevard to Davie Boulevard stretch in Fort Lauderdale serves over 100,000 more cars than the highway was meant to serve. The third major contributor to I-95’s high death rate is probably the most upsetting because it’s the one that is easily within the state’s control: the understaffing of highway troopers. According to this {article}, Florida Highway Patrol troopers were paid 8k less than other states and were the lowest paid in the U.S. in 2021. This led to extreme vacancies within the FHP, to the point that there is now one state trooper for approximately every 26k vehicles. If someone is driving recklessly, there is just no way for the minimal amount of state troopers to be able to monitor it all.

While we’ve been focusing on Florida throughout this blog post, it’s important to remember that Florida is not the only spot with stretches with high fatality numbers. There are similar spots in Delaware, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania: Florida just happens to catch a lot of attention for being the state with the highest percentage. Stamford, CT, experienced 736 car crashes between exits 7 and 9 between 2018-2020. Rather than years of speculation, however, Stamford’s DOT was awarded a 1 million dollar grant from the Federal Highway Commission to begin a study on safety improvements. Maybe once they receive those results, Florida can try a few of Connecticut’s safety efforts.

That’s not to say that Florida isn’t trying anything. There are several construction projects planned and started. All that info can be found here and here, by area–there are way too many to list out. I do think it’ll be interesting to see if I-95 succeeds in improving its safety and manages to get off the “top 10 fatalities” list. Also, since this is a follow-up to our previous blog post, now you know that that haunted history road trip is also an *actually* dangerous trip–at least, statistically. Be safe, and stay spooky!

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