Following a statewide 18 percent increase in fatal crashes over the last three years, local law enforcement agencies are sending more officers to crash-prone areas.
The effort, part of the revamped Arrive Alive program from the 1970s, calls on officers, deputies and troopers throughout the state to spend 15 to 20 minutes in areas that see a large number of serious crashes throughout Florida.
These hotspots could be anywhere form the size of an intersection to a swath of highway, said Major Eileen Powell of Florida Highway Patrol’s Troop B. FHP identified the areas with a high crash rate after seeing that 3,102 traffic fatalities occurred across the state last year.
To enforce the initiative, FHP has partnered with local agencies including the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake City Police and the High Springs Police, among others.
From 2012 to 2015, the number of injuries from crashes rose 13 percent in Alachua, according to the Florida Highway Patrol’s annual crash report. In 2015, there were 3,826 injuries, up from 3,391 in 2012.
In the same time frame, the number of traffic fatalities per every 10,000 people rose from about one fatality to three fatalities in Columbia County, according to the FHP report.
By identifying high-crash areas, Powell said she hopes to reduce the number of crashes by having an increased presence of visible officers. In addition to patrolling these areas, officers will also go into classrooms to educate students about the importance of staying alert while driving.
“A lot of times we can reach the parents and the drivers through their children,” she said.
By bringing back the Arrive Alive campaign, it could help get those who remember the old program aimed at reducing highway speed, on board, said Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter.
“There’s a lot of the older people that can remember that campaign and well get the younger generation involved in it,” he said.
A majority of crashes are due to driver error, such a distracted driving, Hunter said. By educating the community and having a greater presence throughout the state, he’s hoping to drive the number of fatalities down to zero.
But for Zoe Bortz, 18, she’s not sure whether an increased presence will cut down on the number of crashes.
Bortz’s white Hyundai Veloster was hit on its right side while on the on-ramp to Interstate 75 southbound, as she traveled home in December.
The driver of the other car, a red Scion, said he didn’t see her in her blind spot, Bortz said.
Though increased presence may cut down on response time to crashes, Bortz doesn’t think an officer would have prevented the $1,000 in damages to her car from happening.
“A lot of crashes happen because of an accident. If a cop was 20 feet away I don’t think it would have helped,” she said.