Young drivers are more likely to be involved in traffic crashes on Thanksgiving weekend on highways in Florida’s Turnpike system, according to new data from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.
As a result of a startling report from the federal government earlier this year that showed fatal crashes saw their highest spike in nearly five decades, turnpike engineers conducted their own analysis of traffic data to find trends and possible causes on turnpike system highways, which include the main turnpike, the Sawgrass Expressway and hundreds of miles of other tolled roadways throughout Florida.
During the Thanksgiving weekend — Wednesday through Sunday — in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the percentage of crashes on the turnpike system caused by drivers ages 16 to 24 jumped from 24 percent during non-holiday months to 37 percent during the holiday weekend. In addition, more than half of turnpike system crashes on the Thanksgiving weekend were caused by careless or negligent drivers.
In comparison, the next age group is drivers ages 36 to 45, who cause about 22 percent of wrecks on Thanksgiving weekends, turnpike engineers found.
To stem the tide of young drivers involved in crashes around Thanksgiving, the Turnpike Enterprise is doing more community outreach targeted at young drivers who might need a reminder to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.
The electronic turnpike message signs will feature reminders with a “non-traditional approach,” said turnpike spokesman Chad Huff.
For Thanksgiving, drivers will see, “Don’t be a turkey. Slow down, save a life.” Coming up for Christmas: “Nobody likes a holiday crasher. Put down the phone.”
Turnpike officials also will target young drivers via social media, including posts on Twitter and Facebook.
“We’re trying to communicate with drivers, reaching that demographic,” Huff said.