To bring photographs and pictures to life, 3D effects provide width, length and depth; to keep Lee County residents and visitors alive, area law enforcement agencies take steps to outlaw the 4D process – drunk, drugged, drowsy and distracted drivers.
“There are many alternatives to drunk driving, including a designated driver, cab, Uber, or spending the night at your location,” emphasizes Lieutenant Dennis Patracca of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “Each of these is a lot better choice than driving and being arrested for a DUI or DUI Manslaughter. We will employ checkpoints during the holidays to ensure everyone drives smart, drives patient and buckles up!”
Dr. Nelayda Fonte, trauma center specialist with Lee Health, reinforced that “it is all our responsibility to prevent tragedy on the roads over the holidays. We do not want the season to become an event that affects the rest of our lives, or those of our families that we do not often talk or think about. Lee County had 95 traffic fatalities in 2015, with alcohol responsible for 29%. We already suffered 97 in 2016 as of December 2, surpassing 2015 with the holidays yet to come. Of all Lee Health trauma center patients, roughly 50% have alcohol or illicit drugs in their system at the time of the crash.”
She states emphatically that “these are not accidents, every one of these alcohol or drug-related deaths and crashes are preventable. It is just not your life you put at risk but everyone on the road.” Alcohol remains the #1 problem, followed by marijuana and cocaine. “Prescription drug use is on the decline,” Dr. Fonte reports, “but heroine is up – we, as a society, are simply substituting one drug with another, rather than dealing with the root of the problem.”
Drowsy driving, she cautions, is just as risky as driving with a legal blood alcohol content of 0.8. “Use designated drivers or call a towing service,” Dr. Fonte implores. “Triple A during the holidays will take you home and get you there safely for free.
Call them at 855-286-9246.”
Lieutenant Joe Bowers of the Florida Highway Patrol reminds all drivers that “Florida law requires you to move over a lane for vehicles stopped along the roadside. These include law enforcement, emergency rescue, ambulances, wreckers, public utility and fire, garbage, sanitation, and tow trucks. If you cannot move over, slow down to 20 miles-per-hour under the posted speed, or to 5 miles-per-hour when the speed limit is 20 miles-per-hour or less.” When drivers fail this, they put themselves and others at risk, resulting in fines, points against their license, injuries and fatalities.
City of Fort Myers Police Department Lieutenant Jay Rodriguez emphasized that “we are targeting aggressive driving. This behavior often leads to shouting, altercations, and shootings, and is definitely on the rise. When late to a holiday function, drivers often speed aggressively. We will particularly target the US 41 region of Tamiami Trail and Cleveland Avenue that is a high-volume area for pedestrian incidents and accidents. We will not tolerate careless driving in Lee County.”
Be Visible – Be Safe
Chief David Newlan of the Cape Coral Police Department stressed bicycle and pedestrian safety. “Always wear a helmet,” he cautioned. “Never wear headphones so you can hear what is happening around you. Ride one person at a time and have working brakes, with a white front light that illuminates up to 500 feet and a red tail light you can see up to 600 feet. Motorists should give bicyclists at least three feet clearance when you pass, and bicyclists need to yield to pedestrians at intersections. Most important — Be Visible! Dress in bright reflective clothing that is easy to see at night. Be safe and enjoy a great holiday.”
The law enforcement professionals report that nationally in 2015 there were 35,092 deaths on US roadways, up from 32,744 from 2014, or a 7.2% increase – the largest in the last 50 years. In addition to having a designated driver, always wear your seat belt, properly restrain children, follow the speed limit, drive without distractions like talking on a cell phone or texting, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.
“Good motorists express no regrets when they drive with care,” concluded Lieutenant Patracca. “Stop for pedestrians at intersections, do not pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians, share the road with bicyclists, stop before turning right at a red light, look in all directions before turning, focus on the road, avoid aggressive driving and obey the traffic laws, signs, and speed limits so we all make it home alive to enjoy the holidays with our loved ones.” For more information see the Safer Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website at flhsmv.gov/news.