Miami-Dade's Portion of I-95 Is the Interstate's Deadliest

Photo by formulanone / Flickr

Perhaps nothing unites Miamians more than our shared hatred for I-95. A simple morning commute on the godforsaken stretch of highway almost always means dodging drivers diving through the plastic poles to get to the express lanes, narrowly avoiding horrific crashes, and sitting in traffic jams that last long enough to allow for an impromptu yoga session.

But if you needed more proof that Miami-Dade's section of 95 is the absolute worst, a Wall Street Journal analysis of the interstate's many issues has just revealed the stretch is the deadliest piece of the entire north-south highway, with more people dying in accidents here in 2015 than in any other county along the way.

In 2015, there were 14 fatal crashes on I-95 in Miami-Dade and 4,000 on all interstates. That means Miami-Dade has a fatal accident at eight times the rate of all interstates, according to the Journal's review, which used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Accident Reporting System.

The news shouldn't come as much of a surprise to locals: Florida's portion of I-95 — and South Florida's specifically — regularly rank near the top on lists of the most dangerous roads.

What makes the stretch of highway such a death trap? Miami-Dade's razor-thin express lanes have frequently drawn criticism for being dangerous and poorly maintained, not to mention making traffic congestion even worse. In one of the most deadly accidents on South Florida's section of 95, five people were hit and killed while standing on the narrow shoulder of the express lanes.

In fact, this past January, state Sen. Frank Artiles proposed banning express lanes across Florida, calling them unsafe, inefficient, and an unnecessary burden on drivers. The bill didn't get traction and, of course, Artiles was forced to resign months later after going on a racist tirade against his fellow lawmakers. A commissioned report released earlier this year by the Florida Department of Transportation claims the results "suggest that the express lanes do not make the I-95 facility less safe."

As I-95 has continually landed on roundups of the worst roads, officials have pointed to aggressive and distracted driving as the cause of accidents. Florida is one of few states where texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning cops can't pull you over unless you're also committing another traffic violation. Attempts to toughen the law have failed due to some lawmakers' concerns that it would give police reason to unfairly stop black drivers.

“You should not text and drive — that’s a no-brainer,” state Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) told the Sun Sentinel. “The problem comes in how the law is applied. [If police are] using it as a pretext to stop them, therein lies the problem.”

Distracted driving, aggressive driving, and construction are to blame for I-95's deadly nature in Miami-Dade, according to one Florida Department of Transportation official.

“I believe it all relates to congestion,” which has worsened in recent years, James Wolfe, secretary for District 6, which includes Miami-Dade County, told the Journal. “That changes driving behavior. People aren’t patient.”
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas