Young drivers cause more crashes around Thanksgiving on Florida turnpike highways

Young drivers are more likely to be involved in traffic crashes on Thanksgiving weekend on highways in Florida’s Turnpike system, according to data from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.

As a result of a startling report from the federal government last 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.

>>RELATED: Thanksgiving travel – Local airports brace for busy week


Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is targeting younger drivers with this holiday message encouraging motorists to slow down and pay attention. (Florida's Turnpike Enterprise Twitter, @fl511_turnpike)
Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise is targeting younger drivers with this holiday message encouraging motorists to slow down and pay attention. (Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise Twitter, @fl511_turnpike)

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.

» RELATED: Older teens at higher risk when it comes to fatal crashes, new report says

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.

>>RELATED: The best and worst times to drive and fly this Thanksgiving

>>RELATED: Thanksgiving 2017: Best ways to show gratitude 



2 million Floridians to hit the road this Memorial Day

Better wrap up your plans and plan to head out early: More than 2 million Floridians — roughly 10 percent of the state’s population — are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend.

AAA said Wednesday that projection is the highest in 12 years for Florida. And coupled with a record tourism pace in the Sunshine State, 31 million visitors in just the first quarter, it would represent a massive movement of population in a short period of time.

So, expect crowded highways, airports and beaches. But it’s also good news for Florida’s tourism economy, which is on a torrid pace to exceed 120 million visitors in 2017.

Across the country, lots of other people will also be on the move for what is the traditional start to the summer vacation season.

Low gas prices plus a long-weekend equals an estimated 39.3 million Americans traveling this Memorial Day weekend, AAA also estimated.

The automotive and travel group’s projection would mean equate to to 1 million more Americans traveling than during Memorial Day 2016.

“The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “So far in 2017, travel bookings with AAA in Florida are up 17 percent, compared to the same period last year. Higher confidence, rising wages, and recent gas price declines have bolstered consumer spending, leaving many Americans with more money to spend on travel this Memorial Day.”

Believe it or not: The average price of a plane ticket has gone down

Plane tickets are getting less expensive.

The average cost for domestic air fare dropped to $344 for the third quarter of 2016, down nearly 9 percent from the same time the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RELATED: Number of guns found at airport checkpoints up sharply in 2016

A US Airways jet passes an American Airlines plane parked at the gate at Palm Beach International Airport.  (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
A US Airways jet passes an American Airlines plane parked at the gate at Palm Beach International Airport. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

The number, which is adjusted for inflation, is based on itinerary fares, which typically are two-way trips but could include a one-way ticket. The DOT said those one-way fares accounted for about 38 percent of all tickets purchased from July to September last year. For that time period, the average cost of a one-way fare was $242, and the average cost of a round-trip fare was $424. Fare prices do not include extra charges such as baggage fees — only the price paid when a traveler buys a ticket.

Palm Beach International Airport’s average domestic fare for the third quarter last year was $327 — a slight increase from the same time in 2015 — and the airport had nearly 340,000 passengers start their trips there, the DOT said.

At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the average domestic fare was $241 — the lowest among its group of airports that served between 1 million and 1.5 million passengers in the third quarter last year, and about a 9 percent drop from the same time the year before.

Ticket prices fell about 14 percent from 2014, and about 26.5 percent from the third quarter of 2000, when average ticket prices hit a peak for the 21-year stretch the DOT has kept track of fare records, the agency said.




Number of guns found at airport checkpoints up sharply in 2016

More guns are being found at airport security checkpoints than ever before, the Transportation Security Administration said this week.

Nearly 3,400 firearms were found in carry-on bags by TSA screeners throughout the U.S. last year — nine guns per day. It’s a 28 percent increase from about 2,600 the year before.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

And of the guns found this year, about 83 percent were loaded, TSA social media team member Bob Burns said in a post on the agency’s blog Thursday.

The announcement comes about a week after a gunman shot and killed five people and injured several others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, using a gun he brought with him  as checked baggage on a flight from Alaska. The TSA allows guns and ammunition onto planes, as long as travelers stow them in checked baggage and alert their airline.

» RELATED: Fort Lauderdale shooting raises confusion, worry over gun laws

It also follows warnings from the TSA earlier this year that its agents were seeing an increase in people carrying guns and other weapons up to security checkpoints, whether intentional or not.

Two of the top 10 airports where firearms were found last year are in Florida: Tampa International, which ranked No. 8 with 79 guns found; and Orlando International, which ranked No. 6 with 86 guns.

» RELATED: TSA: ‘Escalating problem’ with guns at airport security checkpoints

The TSA reports it also found a variety of hazardous substances and weapons while screening carry-on bags at checkpoints last year.

Among the findings: dozens of inert grenades, sword canes, credit cards that turn into knives, stun guns disguised as lipstick, and a slew of “batarangs,” a weapon inspired by Batman.

“If you’re grabbing a bag, suitcase, briefcase, jacket or other item you haven’t used in a while, be sure to give it the onceover so you don’t accidentally take something prohibited to the checkpoint,” Burns wrote. “Many people who have brought guns, ammunition, knives and other prohibited item say that they did so unknowingly.”

Here’s the full top 10 list of airports where the TSA found guns at checkpoints:

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 198
2. Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW): 192
3. George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston (IAH): 128
4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX): 101
5. Denver International (DEN): 98
6. Orlando International Airport (MCO): 86
7. Nashville International (BNA): 80
8. Tampa International (TPA): 79
9. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS): 78
10. Salt Lake City International (SLC): 75

Read more from the TSA.



Florida’s Turnpike travel tips for Christmas and New Year’s

Taking a road trip for the holidays? You’re not alone. The U.S. Department of Transportation says the Christmas/New Year’s holiday is one of the busiest for long-distance travel, next to only Thanksgiving.

And more than 90 percent of those people who are traveling long distances are taking their cars, the DOT says.

(Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
(Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

So what’s a driver to do? Florida’s Turnpike offers these tips if you’re taking the toll road to visit family or friends.

Avoid the busiest times: According to a news release from the turnpike, the busiest driving times for holiday travel will be 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 23, 26 and 30 and Jan. 2. These normally busy rush hour periods could be even more congested as holiday travelers compete for space with daily commuters.

Check your tires: Tire safety is key for a long road trip, regardless of when you travel. Check your tire pressure and make sure your tread isn’t too worn down.

Get a free cup of coffee: Each turnpike service plaza will offer free coffee during four “Free Coffee Safety Breaks” over the holidays. Get the dates and times here.

Service plaza construction: The Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce plaza construction still is underway, and parking is limited. All of the plaza’s services are available, but motorists should be patient when looking for parking and slow down when driving through the plaza’s parking areas.

FL511 app: The state’s FL511 app offers real-time updates on the turnpike and other highways in Florida. Motorists can plan a route and check for crashes ahead.





Where to get free coffee if you’re driving in Florida for the holidays

Driving for the holidays and need a little pick-me-up? Find it at service plazas along Florida’s Turnpike in the form of free coffee.

Each plaza and its gas station will offer a “Free Coffee Safety Break” over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, turnpike officials said in a news release.

Who can say no to a free cup of coffee? Especially one that's perfectly timed to help you make it to your family's holiday dinner. (Getty Images)
Who can say no to a free cup of coffee? Especially one that’s perfectly timed to help you make it to your family’s holiday dinner. (Getty Images)

Here are the dates/times when you can get the free coffee:

• 11 p.m. Dec. 24 to 6 a.m. Dec. 25
• 11 p.m. Dec. 25 to 6 a.m. Dec. 26
• 11 p.m. Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. Jan. 1
• 11 p.m. Jan. 1 to 6 a.m. Jan. 2

» RELATED: Drowsy driving: A holiday danger you should pay more attention to

The U.S. Department of Transportation says Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s are the top long-distance travel periods each year, with more than 90 percent of those travelers take a personal vehicle. With more people on the roads, driving while sleepy or impaired can pose a real threat to motorists.

Last year, Palm Beach County’s number of fatigue-related crashes, 315, fell behind Miami-Dade with 550, Broward with 405 and Orange with 324, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Throughout Florida, state officials say there were 23 deaths and more than 4,000 wrecks caused by drowsy driving.

The Florida Department of Transportation says that if you’re feeling sleepy behind the wheel, getting some caffeine and taking a break to walk can help.

So take advantage of the free coffee if you’re making one of these overnight treks.


Want to see whether your medication could affect your driving? Go to


A recent Governors Highway Safety Association study notes different levels of drowsiness, and what to look for:

Moderately drowsy: A driver will have “slack facial muscles, limited body movement and reduced eye scan.”

Severely drowsy: A driver will have the signs of being moderately drowsy, plus “extended eyelid closures and difficulty keeping his or her head up.”


• Drive sober and avoid medications that cause drowsiness.

• Get a good night’s sleep before driving.

• Take a companion on long trips. Not only will you have someone to share the driving and help keep you awake but you’ll be able to save energy by carpooling, too.

• Schedule regular breaks, about every 100 miles or every two hours.

• Avoid driving at times you usually would be asleep.

• If you begin to feel tired while driving, pull over in a safe place — such as a rest area or service plaza — and take a nap if you can.

• Drink caffeine. Two cups of coffee can increase your alertness for several hours.

SOURCES: Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles




Florida is among the worst states for drivers — or are we the best?

Let’s get this settled once and for all: Florida is among the worst states for drivers.

Oh no, wait — we actually have some of the best drivers?

One recent report says Florida is one of the worst states for drivers, while another says we have the second-best drivers in the U.S. ... Huh? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
One recent report says Florida is one of the worst states for drivers, while another says we have the second-best drivers in the U.S. … Huh? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A new report from Bankrate says Florida is the ninth-worst state for drivers. But that report comes less than two weeks after one from Quotewizard that Florida had the second-best drivers in the U.S., after only Rhode Island.

» RELATED: Study: Florida drivers second best in U.S. Pause for laughter.

So if our drivers are so good, why is the state so bad for them? In determining Florida’s ranking, Bankrate looked at average commute times; average yearly car insurance, repair and fuel costs; rate of car thefts related to population; and the number of car crash fatalities related to the number of miles driven. The average Florida commute is about 27 minutes, and we pay more than $1,100 a year on average for car insurance, and more than $1,000 yearly for gas. Compare that to Bankrate’s No. 1, Iowa, which has higher gas costs but much lower commute times and annual insurance costs.

Quotewizard did its ranking by looking at similar data, but with a few additions, including traffic citations, crashes, DUI arrests and speeding tickets.

Gigi Hadid perfectly summing up our feelings on Florida drivers. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Gigi Hadid perfectly summing up our feelings on Florida drivers. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Two other states as examples:

• Iowa was ranked first in Bankrate’s report, but solidly in the middle of the pack at 29th by Quotewizard.

• California seems to be the one state on which both analyses agree: While Bankrate put the Golden State in last place, Quotewizard said it has the second-worst drivers.

So this juxtaposition may still be possible: Florida could have good drivers — but just be a really bad place for them.

Check out the full ranking from Bankrate


Airplane bathrooms could get a lot easier to get in and out of

Think airplane bathrooms are tough to get in and out of? Imagine being in a wheelchair.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a plan to make bathrooms on single-aisle aircraft — used for most domestic U.S. flights and many shorter international trips — more accessible.

And we’ve all been there: trying to get in and out of the lavatory while you’re mid-flight can be a struggle, even for the most able-bodied.

(Photo by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images)

The DOT’s ACCESS Advisory Committee — which includes airline representatives, people with disabilities and flight attendants — also is proposing a rule that would require airlines to offer entertainment for people who are blind and deaf. Airlines would need to offer some in-flight TV shows and movies that would be captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers, along with audio described entertainment for people who are blind.

» RELATED: U.S. government considers allowing phone calls on flights

“It is unfair to expect individuals with limited mobility to refrain from using the restroom when they fly on single aisle aircraft, particularly since single aisle aircraft are increasingly used for longer flights,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “It is also unfair for passengers who are deaf or blind not to be able to enjoy the same entertainment that is available to other passengers. I’m pleased that all involved parties are working together towards our common goal of universal access to the air transportation system. We are committed to is

suing a rulemaking to implement this agreement.”

The plan combines short-term and long-term fixes, the DOT said. In the short-term, airlines would have to make bathrooms more accessible or increase the size of the restrooms within three years after the final rule takes effect. Plus, the committee said the DOT needs to set better safety and maneuverability standards for the wheelchairs used on airplanes.

In the long-term, the DOT will propose a rule that airlines must offer on sinlge-aisle airplanes with more than 125 passenger seats an accessible bathroom similar to what’s offered not on twin-aisle aircraft.

The DOT is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking based on this agreement in July.





U.S. government considers allowing phone calls on flights | Poll

Under a proposed rule, it could become a lot more clear whether or not you can use your cellphone to make voice calls on flights in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that it wants to require airlines and ticket agents to tell customers in advance if the airline on which they’re flying will let passengers talk on their phones. And while the DOT is seeking comments on the proposed rule, it also wants consumers to weigh in on if it should ban voice calls altogether on flights in the U.S.

Want to chat on your phone while you're in the air? Under current rules, you can't — so you'd better get that work done on your phone before you board your flight. (Getty Images)
Want to chat on your phone while you’re in the air? Under current rules, you can’t — so you’d better get that work done on your phone before you board your flight. (Getty Images)

The move is a sign the federal government is considering allowing voice calls on flights — but first it wants to hear from what certainly will be a massive number of people who want to share their opinions on the matter.

Right now, Federal Communications Commission rules don’t allow for people to make voice calls using their cellphones, because those rules ban the use of mobile devices on certain radio frequencies. But those rules don’t cover the use of WiFi to make calls — something many smartphones, including iPhones and some Android devices, now allow. Most major airlines now offer in-flight WiFi, whether for free or paid use.

In a news release, the DOT said not providing advance notice of voice-call policies “would be an unfair and deceptive practice.” The DOT cited response to a 2014 call for comment on a proposed rule regarding the use of wireless devices to make voice calls on airplanes, saying “a substantial majority” of comments were opposed to allowing voice calls because they could be “disturbing, particularly in the confined space of an aircraft cabin.”

A higher number of calls and “a greater risk of passenger harm” could be seen in coming years as the cost to make a call goes down and the quality of calls made from cellphones goes up, the DOT said.

“Consumers deserve to have clear and accurate information about whether an airline permits voice calls before they purchase a ticket and board the aircraft,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “Today’s proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls, as many of them are troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cellphones in flight.”

The DOT would only require airlines to let a passenger know in advance if the airline does allow voice calls on its flights.

Here’s how to comment on the proposed rule: Go to and enter docket number DOT-OST-2014-0002. Comments must be received within 60 days of the date the notice is published in the Federal Register.



Why were Thanksgiving security lines at PBIA so short? Has a lot to do with this

Travelers flying out of Palm Beach International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday may have noticed something they aren’t used to seeing at other airports: swift-moving Transportation Security Administration checkpoint lines.

That could be because more than 50 percent of those boarding flights at PBIA had TSA PreCheck, a process where travelers pay an $85 application fee to be prescreened for flights so they don’t have to remove their belts, shoes and jackets or remove laptops or other large electronics from carry-on bags at checkpoints.

Travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport on June 2, 2016 in Miami. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport on June 2, 2016 in Miami. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said PBIA’s rate of PreCheck travelers is a good 10 percent higher than the national average.

“It’s just good news,” she said via phone last week. “It keeps the lines moving for those travelers.”

The $85 PreCheck fee pays for fingerprinting and background checks. Upon approval for PreCheck — which can take anywhere from a day to a week — a Known Traveler Number is issued, which is entered when booking future flights for the next five years. When travelers check in, their board passes will say “TSA PreCheck,” and they will be sent to a shorter line.

In October, 97 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes at a checkpoint, the TSA said.

Koshetz said one factor that might be behind the high number of PreCheck users at PBIA: The airport has a screening site built into it. And although PreCheck isn’t able to be used automatically, passengers can sign up while waiting to board a flight and may have their approval in time to add it to their return trip.

About 29,000 people have signed up for PreCheck at PBIA since the screening site opened there in June 2014, Koshetz said.

It’s an “indication of a great partnership” between the airport, the TSA and MorphoTrust, the vendor that conducts the background checks for the TSA, Koshetz said.

Though the security line may be short, Koshetz cautions travelers to always build in enough time for any intra-airport transportation that might need to take place, whether it’s just walking to your terminal or your need to catch a shuttle or take a rail line.

Check out five tips to get your TSA PreCheck from someone who’s been through the process.