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Florida leads U.S. in fatal car accident deaths due to drowning

When considering the many types of motor vehicle accidents that can claim a person’s life, one type of accident that rarely makes the list is the drowning of an occupant of the vehicle.

This type of accident is more common in Florida than in any other state. While that may not be a surprising statistic given the amount of water in the state, the numbers far outpace other states' statistics. According to one five-year study, 49 people drowned inside their vehicles in Florida during that period. The second-highest ranking state had only 18 in the same amount of time.

And those numbers may tell only a portion of the story. A federal study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals much higher statistics due to more extensive research that includes death certificates and accident reports that local law enforcement did not record as a death by drowning.

The statistics compiled by the NHTSA found an average of 57 deaths in Florida in each of the years studied from 2004-2007.

While the fact that Florida is bordered by large bodies of water would seem to support the numbers, in reality many of the drownings take place in naturally-occurring water such as roadside canals and retention ponds.

It may be tempting to assume that the drownings would happen in deep bodies of water, but even shallow water can be deadly when a vehicle rolls over in it.

The NHTSA study showed that roll-over accidents account for almost two-thirds of in-vehicle drownings. For example, the grandson of legendary Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden was killed in 2013 in a roll-over accident in a Florida creek that was only five feet deep.

While studies offer tips for escaping from an overturned or submerged vehicle, an occupant may be unconscious or have injuries too severe to try to escape or be helped from the vehicle.

If such a tragedy occurs and another driver has some responsibility for causing it, then compensation may be available for the family members of the deceased via a wrongful death action. An attorney experienced with trying fatal motor vehicle accident cases may help to recover any redress that may be available in such an unfortunate eventuality.

Source: Gazettenet, "Florida leads the nation in car-crash drownings," Rene Stutzman, Nov. 21, 2014

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