by: Robert Alonso, WOKV Updated:
Is it the road construction?
The traffic shifts?
More distracted drivers?
More drivers, period?
All of the above?
Whatever the reasons, one thing is undeniable. Jacksonville's highways are seeing a major increase in accidents.
A special WOKV News investigation has highlighted that growing trend on Interstates 10, 95 and 295 in Duval County.
Now new data gathered from the Florida Highway Patrol over the past two years shows just how much of a problem it's become.
There's a 24 percent pump in overall accidents on all three roads in 2016 compared to 2015. Just in sheer numbers, there were nearly 1,300 more accidents in 2016.
The one interstate that's seen the most accidents is I-95, especially recently. In the last four months of 2016, there's been a 43 percent rise in accidents on that road compared to the same time period in 2015.
When the numbers for the first eight months of the year are added and then compared to the data from the year before, it shows a 30 percent accident increase overall on I-95 between St. Johns and Nassau counties.
While not as large of an increase as I-95, I-295 (23 percent) and I-10 (14 percent) also showed significant jumps in overall accidents over the past year compared to the years before.
16 fatal accidents were reported on all three interstates in Duval County just in the last four months of 2016. That's nearly double the amount reported during the same period the year before (9).
Plot graphs showing every accident on those three interstates over the last four months of 2016 show an increase in accidents around areas of construction, including the JTB-95 interchange and the Overland Bridge project.
FHP Sergeant Dylan Bryan says construction and traffic shifts likely are playing a role in the increase, but he also feels most of these accidents are preventable if drivers pay more attention and don't get as distracted.
"The metro Jacksonville area is a very popular place, not only to visit but also to go through," Bryan added. "I'm not going to say that the construction causes crashes. However, I will say that the drivers that are traversing through the areas of construction may not be aware of the pending hazards that are ahead [such as] lane shifts, lane closures, narrow roadways, lane clearances, that kind of thing."
Bryan also attributed the rise in part to more drivers using FHP's website to self-report traffic crashes and to more drivers overall using Jacksonville's roads.
"The increases could be attributed to a lot of different factors," Bryan noted. "As part of our new 'Arrive Alive' campaign, we're basically taking all this data and kind of utilizing 'hot spot' areas where we see an increase in traffic crashes or congestion and we're reallocating resources [to focus on those areas more]."
The hope is that increased presence by FHP in those "hot spots" will lead to more drivers exercising caution, thus leading to a drop in accidents moving forward.
Officials at the Florida Department of Transportation deferred all comment on the story to FHP, including how much change there might be on how construction projects and traffic shifts are scheduled moving forward based on these increases.
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