29 May 2019
I-4 named the most dangerous highway in country. Tampa claims two of it’s most dangerous sections.
Posted By Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez
It’s a popular road you take to drive from Tampa to Orlando, but Interstate 4 has another title: the most dangerous highway in the country.
According to Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) data retrieved from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were more than 165 deaths on the 132-mile interstate in the last six years: that’s 1.25 deaths per mile.1
Why is I-4 so dangerous?
The history of I-4
The I-4 story begins back with Florida’s booming postwar population expansion in the 1950’s, when dozens of new industries and thousands of new families arrived in Florida, lured by white sand beaches, warm winter temperatures, and the invention of air conditioning. As the 1950s ended, the Census Bureau proclaimed Central Florida’s growth “the nation’s greatest.”2
A 1954 traffic study showed that drivers were making 195,000 trips per day in and out of the Orlando-Winter Park area. Local officials knew that a major upgrade was going to be needed, and fast.
In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, authorizing $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System over a 10-year period. At the time, it was the largest public works project in U.S. history. The I-4 project opened in 1965 after taking seven years to “complete” and costing over $42 million.
Since then, routine reconstruction and lane-widening projects have continued. Walt Disney World opened in 1971. More than 20 million visited in its first two years. Central Florida was growing rapidly, and it was swiftly becoming one of the world’s top tourist destinations as well. In the 1970s and 1980s, Florida became the nation’s fourth most populous state—and in the 1990s, more than 900 people a day relocated here. By linking Orlando with Tampa and Daytona Beach, I-4 is the state’s most important east-west thoroughfare.
Reasons for I-4 accidents
The leading reason for so many of the accidents on I-4 is congestion, which can be attributed to two main factors: ongoing construction and a growing population.
There have always been simply too many vehicles traveling I-4, whether or not construction is happening. In 2008, for example, a 70-car pileup near Polk City was caused by thick fog combined with smoke from an environmental burn conducted by the Florida Wildlife Commission. Four people were killed in the pileup, and 38 were injured.
Most dangerous stretches of I-4
In a study conducted by Teletrac Navman, a GPS tracking company, I-4 can be divided into three “danger” sections:
- near Tampa
- near Plant City
- Lakeland to Disney World.
Accident reports from 2016 show that a total of 503 crashes occurred from Malfunction Junction to I-75. Most of these happened between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The reports also show that Friday is the worst day, April and August are the worst months, and most crashes involve drivers in their late 20s.3
In Tampa, the most dangerous stretch of I-4 is said to be at the Florida State Fairgrounds and the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. This section is characterized by a reduction in lanes, going from four to three in a high-traffic zone. The area also contains irregular off-ramp shifting, with ramps shifting right-to-left.
Here are some safety recommendations to keep in mind as you drive on I-4 or as you drive on any highway that’s under construction or congested:
- Stay Alert: Pay attention to the road and your surroundings in a construction zone.
- No Tailgating: Unexpected stops happen frequently in construction zones. Allow at least a full car length for every ten miles per hour of speed, and a little more just to be safe.
- Reduce Distractions: If you listen to music as you drive, program the music so that you aren’t constantly changing it as you drive. Avoid using a cell phone, eating, grooming – or anything except paying attention to the road.
- Be Prepared: Construction zones are active and constantly changing. Be ready for workers and construction equipment to start moving unexpectedly.
- No Speeding: Obey the posted speed limits in and around construction zones. Speeding is almost always a factor in fatal construction zone crashes in Florida.
If you’re involved in a crash on I-4, what should you do?
If you’re injured by a negligent driver in an accident on I-4—or anywhere else in Central Florida—discuss your rights and options with an experienced Tampa accident attorney.
We are here to help you and your family. Contact us by phone at 813-774-3341 or by using our online contact form.
We have been serving clients throughout the Tampa Bay area since 1999. Led by Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney, Nadine Diaz, our firm is recognized as a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum®.
1 Wolf, Colin. I-4 is named the most deadly highway in the nation. Orlando Weekly, Nov 10, 2017; https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2017/11/10/i-4-is-named-the-most-deadly-highway-in-the-nation
2 History of I-4. I-4 Ultimate Project, 2019; https://i4ultimate.com/project-info/overview/
3 LaGrone, Paul. I-4 named the most dangerous highway in America. ABC News, Nov 15, 2017; https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-4-named-the-most-dangerous-highway-in-america