LEHIGH ACRES, Fla - New numbers shared by the Florida Highway Patrol this week point to a growing concern when it comes to crashes on busy State Road 82 in Lehigh Acres.
After a weekend crash that seriously injured four people, including a 15-month-old girl, WINK News began looking into the road's accident-prone history. Much of the road beyond its intersection with Colonial and Lee boulevards is a narrow two-lane stretch, often crammed with cars and trucks traveling between Fort Myers and Immokalee.
Drivers and transportation officials agree the road is due for an upgrade, and one is planned in the coming years. But until that time, officials say the road is fully capable of managing current traffic loads.
"Let's face it, one crash is one too many," Debbie Tower told WINK News anchor Cayle Thompson.
Tower is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation. She hears the calls for change on SR82. But many of the safety issues lie with drivers, she says.
"A little courtesy, a little caution, a little patience. All of these things add up to safety on our roads," Tower said.
Driver inattention is a problem, according to information shared by Highway Patrol. In 2013, troopers responded to at least 40 crashes. Sixteen of those crashes resulted in injuries, several involving multiple victims. Two crashes resulted in deaths.
Drivers and homeowners along SR82 have repeatedly complained to WINK News about the traffic congestion, and believe additional stoplights could reduce the number of accidents.
But numbers from Highway Patrol suggest otherwise.
Of the 40 accidents in 2013, 25 happened at intersections without a stoplight. The remaining 15 occurred at intersections where stoplights are in use.
The numbers also show more than half of the total accidents were preventable, with four involving alcohol, and 19 others the result of distracted driving.
The majority of the crashes - over half - involved one driver rear-ending another.
Florida Highway Patrol says its numbers may not be complete, as other law enforcement agencies also help patrol and respond to parts of State Road 82.
"We have plans right now to expand to six lanes from Lee boulevard to Shawnee," Tower said, adding there will be a four-lane expansion through the remainder of the county.
Although land acquisition is already underway and $70-million is already allocated to the project, construction likely will not begin until 2018 when plans are complete.
Until, authorities caution drivers to obey the rules of the road, and keep their patience.