Florida takes aim at aggressive drivers

Authorities cracking down on speeding, tailgating, other unsafe maneuvers

By Kathleen Corso - Special Projects Producer, Louis Aguirre - Anchor/Reporter

MIAMI - Aggressive driving is on the rise in the United States, and the consequences are deadly.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that over half of all fatal crashes involved at least one driver who performed an aggressive action.

"I thought I was going to die," said Tiffany Green who was rear-ended by an aggressive driver while driving home to Miami Beach.

"It wasn't time to think. There was no time to think," said Oral Walker about the night in 2016 when an aggressive driver struck his van at an intersection in Miami Gardens.

Bal Harbor attorney Brett Schlacter said the problem is getting worse in South Florida.

"Each month, we see an increasing number of cases coming through the door as a result of aggressive and careless driving," Schlacter said.

In an effort to give law enforcement officer more muscle with regard to aggressive driving, the Florida Legislature enacted a statute called "Aggressive careless driving."

A motorist in Florida can be ticketed under the statute if they commit two or more of the following acts: speeding, unsafe lane changing, tailgating, improper passing, failing to yield the right of way and violating a traffic control signal.

"Most commonly, it has to do with speeding and some other action, but, in fact, it doesn't have to be speeding. It just has to be two of the acts prescribed in the statute," Schlacter said.

The statute allows the Florida Highway Patrol to conduct crackdowns on aggressive drivers by running campaigns throughout the year.

"Some people have complete disregard for the public, and that's where we come in, and we have to enforce," said Lt. Alvaro Feola. 

Over the course of more than a half-dozen crackdown campaigns, FHP issued over 80,000 aggressive driving citations.

In some cases, the incident was reported by another motorist, which can be done by dialing *FHP.

"Get a description of the vehicle, what they are doing. If you can get a tag safely then do so. What we do not recommend is that you follow the vehicle," Feola said. "Do not try to teach them a lesson. Things can escalate quickly and you don't know how it's going to end."

"Unfortunately, we do see catastrophic injuries and oftentimes death as a result of aggressive driving," Schlacter said.

Walker and Green feel fortunate that they have fully recovered from their injuries but the emotional scars are still with both of them.

"I slow down way sooner than I used to because I want to be sure the person behind me has time to slow down. I want them to see my brake lights as quickly as possible," Green said.

"To me, it's an accident that should not have happened," Walker said.

There is no requirement for Florida motorists to carry bodily injury coverage so if you are hurt by an aggressive driver who does not carry that coverage, you will be solely responsible for the cost of your medical expenses.

Make sure you are covered through your auto policy or private health insurance plan.

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