West Palm Beach car accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, but most often they result from negligence on the part of one of the drivers involved. West Palm Beach sees plenty of traffic every year, especially during tourist season, when visitors flock to the area. All the traffic can lead to immense challenges for drivers in the area, including an increased risk of accidents. This article runs down some of the top reasons for car accidents in West Palm Beach.
1. Dangerous Intersections
Palm Beach County contains many dangerous intersections: intersections where traffic flows fast and drivers may experience poor visibility as they attempt to move through traffic. The most dangerous intersections in the area include South Jog Road and Forest Hill Boulevard, North Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard, and South Jog Road and Lake Worth Road.
Some drivers choose to avoid those intersections to reduce their overall accident risk. But these intersections exist for a reason—people need them. Drivers should be more cautious at these and other busy intersections in West Palm Beach.
2. Tourist Traffic
More than 7.3 million people visit Palm Beach County every year. While the $4.6 billion they spend is an undeniable boon to the local economy, it also means more people using the roads and more potential for accidents. Tourists in West Palm Beach also have less familiarity with the area and the road infrastructure, which means that they may struggle to change lanes at the right time or prepare for sharp turns in the road, leading to accidents.
Tourist traffic also often means more drivers slowing down unexpectedly to check out sites along the road, or to look at their phones or maps to find their vacation destinations. The driving behaviors tourists tend to engage in can make it difficult for other drivers to predict their next moves.
3. Drunk Driving
While Florida drunk driving deaths continue to drop each year, vacationers in general are more likely to drive while intoxicated than locals on their work commute. Each year, drunk driving accidents claim dozens of lives in Palm Beach County, and many more sustain serious injuries.
Physical impairments make drunk drivers far more dangerous than others. Driving drunk slows one’s reflexes and fosters poor decision-making, which together significantly reduce the driver’s ability to safely control a vehicle on the road. Drunk drivers may also experience tunnel vision or blurred vision, which is clearly a problem for driving safely, especially in the tight traffic of West Palm Beach.
Drunk drivers are not only more likely to cause accidents, but they may cause more severe injuries when they do cause an accident, since the impairments they suffer from also prevent them from responding to lessen the impact of a collision. For example, a drunk driver might steer further into an approaching vehicle instead of away from it, or reflexively slam down a foot on the gas instead of on the brake, causing the accident to occur with more direct impact or at a higher rate of speed, both of which correlate with more serious injuries.
4. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving poses similar threats to the health and safety of everyone on the road. Cell phone use while driving is a prime example. Using a cell phone while driving takes one’s manual and mental attention away from the task of driving, which can result in accidents in a matter of a few seconds. Florida passed a Texting While Driving Law that makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while operating a cell phone manually. Nonetheless, many drivers continue to operate cell phones while behind the wheel, raising the risk to everyone around them and often causing severe injuries.
While texting and driving is one of the more common forms of distracted driving today, many other behaviors than using a cell phone can be distracting and lead to accidents. Driver distraction usually falls into one or more of three categories: visual, manual, or cognitive.
Visual distractions involve any distraction that takes the driver’s eyes off of the road, from turning to look at a passenger to looking down while changing the station on the radio.
Manual distractions involve taking one or both hands off the wheel—eating and drinking, programming a GPS device, or simply reaching out to change the air conditioning setting.
Cognitive distractions take the driver’s attention from the road—carrying on a conversation with a passenger, for example.
Texting and driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distractions: manual, as the victim often holds the cell phone in one hand and may even remove both hands from the wheel to use it; visual, since the driver must look down at the device to use it; and cognitive, because texting and driving requires shifting mental focus to the text conversation, rather than on the task of driving.
West Palm Beach drivers, however, may become distracted for a variety of reasons. Tourists may attempt to program their GPS devices while on the road, especially if they suddenly realize they have taken a wrong turn or do not recognize the way to their destination as well as they thought they did. After a long day at the beach, some drivers may even attempt to fix their hair or makeup behind the wheel.
For many people, vacation is a time to cut loose and enjoy a wide range of activities they would not enjoy during the rest of the year; West Palm Beach visitors are no exception. Unfortunately, in the excitement of it all, some drivers bring speeding into the equation. Local and visiting drivers may hurry out to meet deadlines: to make a reservation at a restaurant, to make it to the beach in time to meet friends, or simply to make it on time to work. While West Palm Beach has clearly posted speed limits and strict consequences for speeding drivers, residents and visitors to the area alike sometimes choose to speed to cut down on the time it takes them to reach their destination.
Unfortunately, speeding significantly increases the risk of accidents. As one’s speed increases, the vehicle becomes more difficult to control. Drivers need more time to react safely to obstacles and changes around them on the road. Speeding also increases the force between vehicles in the event of a collision, meaning that the victims of the accident are more likely to sustain severe injuries than victims in a lower-speed collision.
6. Driving at Night
West Palm Beach has an active nightlife, with plenty of activities that pull visitors and residents alike out on the town to join in the fun. The streets often don’t die down until late into the night. Even in the early-morning hours, people are about—often still bar or club hopping.
Those who drive during these hours must stay vigilant for pedestrians and drunk drivers. Night driving, however, tends to present more difficulty for many drivers. At night, visibility decreases significantly, and many drivers do not slow down to compensate. Driving at night may also make it more difficult to gauge distances or to identify a turn a driver is looking for; visitors to the area may become especially disoriented.
Night driving also presents another significant risk: falling asleep or growing drowsy behind the wheel. On vacation, in particular, many choose to stay up much later than they would under normal circumstances. Their sleep patterns get thrown off. Tired and drowsy drivers are not fit to operate their vehicles safely.
In fact, drowsy driving has many of the same effects as driving while intoxicated: visual difficulties, trouble navigating, and poor decision-making. In a worst-case scenario, drowsy drivers fall asleep behind the wheel. When a driver falls asleep behind the wheel, the vehicle no longer has anyone controlling its direction. The driver’s foot often remains on the gas, but no one to safely steer.
As a result, the vehicle may plow into the nearest solid object, from traffic signs or pillars to pedestrians or other vehicles. The driver may only be jolted awake by the collision, too late to do anything about it.
7. Reckless Driving
Dealing with reckless drivers can pose a substantial challenge for many West Palm Beach residents. Vacationing drivers may drive more recklessly than they would during other times of the year. Speeding, alone, poses enough of a danger. Drivers may also, however, engage in a range of other dangerous and reckless behaviors behind the wheel, including swerving in and out of traffic, changing lanes without signaling, or even maneuvering aggressively toward other drivers.
Reckless drivers are hard to predict. Often, other drivers struggle to get out of their way and avoid a collision, especially if the reckless driver travels at a high rate of speed, in addition to ignoring traffic signals and other rules of the road.
8. Weather Challenges
In general, West Palm Beach remains sunny, with an average of 238 sunny days per year. Still, it gets its share of moisture, averaging around 63 inches of rain per year—well above the US average of 38 inches of rain per year. Those rainy days can mean torrential downpours, which may leave the roads very slick. During hurricane season, West Palm Beach presents unique challenges on the road—heavy winds, for example, which can veer cars off the road or make it very difficult for them to navigate around fallen trees, branches, and debris from various structures that have torn apart and been blown onto the road.
Poor weather conditions significantly increase the risk of accidents. Sometimes, residents of West Palm Beach may have no choice but to head out onto the road, whether they need to get to work or because they need to evacuate due to the dangerous weather conditions. Other times, they may choose to head out and take part in their usual activities, despite the dangers. Vacationers may even attempt to go on with their days as planned, despite hazardous weather conditions, which presents a needless risk of accidents.
9. Vehicle Problems
Sometimes, accidents occur, not because of a hazard caused by West Palm Beach drivers, but because of a defect in one of the vehicles involved in the accident. A vehicle requires a lot of working parts to function in unison to keep it safely on the road. Even a minor defect can increase the risk of an accident: failing windshield wipers, for example, could make it very difficult for the driver to see on the road in heavy rain. A tire blowout could cause the vehicle to slide out of the driver’s control. Engine and transmission problems can disable a car and bring it to a complete and sudden halt in the middle of traffic.
Avoiding an accident with a vehicle that has serious mechanical issues is difficult to impossible, even for an experienced, careful driver. Other drivers may also have a hard time avoiding the unpredictable path of a vehicle that has sustained serious damage, and their reactions to avoid a collision may inadvertently cause an accident some other way.
10. Ignoring Traffic Signals
Traffic signals are there to provide safe directions on the road. Unfortunately, some drivers choose to ignore them completely. Vacationers in West Palm Beach might fail to notice traffic signals as they attempt to navigate the roads; reckless residents might simply choose to blow through lights and stop signs, especially on roads they think they know well and where they assume they can navigate through those signals safely. In whatever case, ignoring traffic signals is an extremely dangerous behavior that often results in accidents.
West Palm Beach car accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, too quickly for anyone to avoid. If you suffered an accident in a West Palm Beach accident, an attorney can help you learn more about your right to compensation. Contact a West Palm Beach car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.