‘That’s somebody’s life’: County-by-county statistics, faces behind Central Florida’s fatal crashes

In 2019, two little boys lost their mother in a fatal crash in St. Cloud after leaving Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria to make a new home in Central Florida.

The year before, two women in their early 20s died in a crash in Winter Park on New Year’s Eve.

On average, more than 3,000 people die in car crashes in Florida every year. That’s about eight traffic-related deaths every day.

READ: Mother of 2 killed in deadly chain-reaction crash in St. Cloud, police say

According to statistics, some counties’ roads in Central Florida prove more deadly than others. Channel 9 reporter Alexa Lorenzo crunched the numbers from the last five years and spoke with family members of a few of those impacted by the loss of life on the roads.

“We should not be OK that there are over 3,000 fatal crashes in the state of Florida every year. That’s somebody’s life and that means something,” said Lt. Kim Montes, with the Florida Highway Patrol.

Montes said at the end of every year, FHP looks at the statistics of the last 12 months to see where trends have emerged.

“The worst thing we have to do as a trooper is knock on a door and tell them a loved one is not coming home,” Montes said.

READ: Hit-and-run driver dies in second crash with FedEx truck, FHP says

According to statistics provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in Orange County the numbers have both increased and decreased for traffic fatalities over the years. But if you compare 2015 to 2019, there’s a 23% increase in fatal crashes.

It’s similar in Volusia County. Numbers went up and down over the last five years, but looking at 2015 to 2019 there’s about a 35% increase.

"It's dangerous, it's very dangerous,” said Laurie Friend, whose son was killed in a traffic crash. “…A lot of these parents lost their children in accidents.”

In Brevard County, the deadliest year on the roads in the past five years was 2016. The number of fatal crashes has decreased since then.

In Seminole County, the numbers have been in the high 30s and 40s for years.

But the county that saw the biggest percentage increase in traffic fatalities is Osceola County. Statistics show traffic fatalities have gone up every year since 2015, an overall 51% increase.

“We absolutely do believe that the increased population has just been booming down there, that that did increase our crashes and fatal crashes in that area,” Montes said.

Yesenia Reyes, 30, was one of those killed in an Osceola County traffic crash in 2019. Her uncle, Guillermo Vega, said she’d come to Central Florida from Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria to make a better life for her sons.

"She find this town she find a place to work,” Vega said. “They find better life here."

The causes of the crashes vary from dangerous intersections to distracted driving and impaired drivers.

READ: UCF student says he ‘didn’t need to sober up,' situation was ‘a joke’ after fatal crash, troopers say

Regardless, Montes said the best way people can prevent becoming a statistic is by wearing their seat belt.

“You don’t know what is coming toward you and you give yourself a chance to survive that crash,” she said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.