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You Can Always Be A Few Minutes Late Or Never Arrive At All
Head On Collissions, Road Rage, DUIs And Texting While Driving

By Tami Stevenson   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Live Oak, Fla., – Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron gives us some good reminders about being safe on the roads.
There is so much activity this time of year and New Year’s is no exception.

This time of year there are a lot of people who want to include alcohol as part of their celebrations. As long as they do that responsibly it’s not a big problem, but when you become irresponsible and get behind the wheel after you’ve had a drink or two, you put yourself and others at risk. “Get a designated driver.” Sheriff Cameron says, “If a family experiences a tragedy during the holiday season, every year when that New Year’s or Christmas holiday time comes around they think about that loved one that they’ve lost in that traffic crash and it’s just not worth it.”

For an example, there were 148 people arrested for DUI in Suwannee County last year. Often times the highway patrol, the city police and their deputies are out working during these holidays to make sure people are safe. We arrest more people for DUI during this time, so you need to be careful. Have a designated driver if you’re going to drink and just be safe, be careful and be responsible.

In 2007 there were 418 traffic crashes in Suwannee County. In 2008 there were 472, a pretty big increase. There were twenty fatalities in 2007 and eleven in 2008, although not all were alcohol related. In 2007 there were four alcohol related fatalities and in 2008 there was only one. I’d like to see it be zero but we’re headed in the right direction.

In comparison with Okeechobee County, another county that is similar in population to ours, both counties have roughly the same amount of thoroughfare that runs through them. In 2007 they had six alcohol related fatalities and in 2008 they had six also.
I feel very fortunate that we’ve had a lower number in 2008. This year I know there’s going to be some, the numbers of course aren’t in yet, but I just hope there won’t be anymore especially during this holiday season.

The penalties for DUI are getting stiffer. The first time you lose your driver’s license for six months and you have to pay a fine. “It’s grown so much I’m not sure exactly how much the fine is now. They have come out with some new ones just this past week we’ve received information on it.” The Sheriff also said it’s going to cost you around $750 for the first one and it graduates from there. If you refuse to take a Breathalyzer test you automatically lose your driver’s license for a year. He Said, “You sign that consent when you sign your driver’s license so you definitely need to take that test if you’re asked to.” The other thing is, as it graduates, the second time you’re going to serve at least 10 days in jail now along with the graduated fine and the third one you’re probably going to go to prison. It’s just not worth it. “It’s too easy to get a designated driver,” said Tony. “If you want to drink and cannot find a designated driver, just stay home.”

Sheriff Cameron also said there is also a lot of texting while driving now. A lot of people do it, not just young people. “But young people seem to text more than they talk,” He said. “Having two young teenagers at my home, I know how much they text. And when they are behind the wheel, they’re inexperienced drivers to start with and then you throw in the texting, looking down to text or reading their text, it just ads to the problem.” Certainly we don’t want to have any kind of accidents involving our young people or anyone else. But texting does create a problem. “I encourage you not to text while driving,” Sheriff Cameron said, “If you’re going to talk on a cell phone in a car, you need to talk on a hands free device.”

During this next legislative session there is a bill that will be introduced to put an end to texting while driving in the State of Florida. In some other states it’s already been enacted. There have been a large number of accidents caused by texting while driving. Especially this time of year, there’s so much activity out on the roads.

Sheriff Tony said in Suwannee County you have 31,536 licensed drivers that live in this county out of 40,000 people so we have a lot of drivers. You also have the interstates running through here and at any given day there are thousands who pass through Suwannee County. The potential is out there and we certainly need to do everything we can to keep this a safe holiday season.
Sheriff Tony also touched on head on collisions. “It can be very scary when you’re out there on the road knowing that at any given second the car that’s meeting you could cross over into your lane.” He continued, “All I can tell you is that you really need to drive defensively. You need to prepare yourself and watch for things that can happen. Have your escape route in your mind at all times. Ask yourself where is the safest way for me to avoid this accident? As a driver you’re going to have to do that on your own. You need to watch ahead and behind you, to the left and to the right. Make sure that you have a path so that you don’t have to run head on into oncoming traffic.”

There is an issue where if you met someone and they were coming over into your lane and you chose to cross over into their lane to avoid them and at the last second they cut back over in their lane and they hit you, you would be the one at fault because you were the one in their lane even though they crossed over first. “I think that you really have to look for ways to avoid that accident without crossing over into the other lane if at all possible,” he said. “Remember sometimes you have to drive for everyone else out there too.”

Sheriff Tony also touched on road rage, asking us to remember we have a weak economy right now. A lot of people are short on funds and out there trying to do the best they can and are stressed out over that. We’re all running around shopping or returning Christmas gifts, trying to get in and out of traffic; so there is potential for road rage.

With road rage there are so many things that can go wrong. If we try to avoid pulling out in front of others, when making lane changes make sure that we check to see we’re not going to cut over in front of someone, we may avoid that potential road rage.
Sheriff Cameron said, “If you get into a road rage situation don’t stop your vehicle and get out to try and settle the situation. Try to get in touch with the sheriff’s office or the highway patrol and let us handle it for you because there have been many people who have been hurt or injured, even death over road rage. They got out, someone shot somebody, hit somebody or hurt somebody.” He continued, “There are so many things that can happen. Just be patient through these holiday times. Be as patient as you can be and drive defensively.”

In closing Sheriff Cameron said, “I wish everyone a happy and safe New Year.”