FHP warns drivers to stay alert

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SUNCOAST - Amid a spike in vehicle crashes that have resulted in fatalities, FHP troopers are now warning drivers so stay alert.

“We have seen quite a few more crashes as of late and unfortunately we've had quite a few fatalities as well,” says Lt. Miller.

Since last Saturday, there have been more than 7 accidents which resulted in at least 3 fatalities.

Although an increase in the number of accidents is normal for the holiday season, the trend here in the Suncoast is still higher than normal.

“The total number of fatalities year to date we've seen a fairly significant increase in both Manatee and Sarasota counties,” says Lt. Miller.

In 2011, there were a total of 40 fatalities in Manatee County and 37 in Sarasota, but so far this year both counties have surpassed those number with more than 48 fatalities for Manatee and 44 for Sarasota County.

Lt. Miller says the increase could be due to the surge in the number of people on the road this holiday season.

One of those drivers is Tim Schellenger, and he says he's witnessed the chaos on the road ways.

Tim says he's dealt with speeders, those who drive so slow that it’s unsafe and others who are just down right reckless. “Worst thing that I see most recently is people texting while driving.”

Since there is no way to make sure the person driving next to you will follow the rules of the road, the Florida Highway Patrol is issuing some safety advice. “When they get inside the vehicle, put their seatbelt on. Number two, plan ahead…leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Keep your speed down and keep your following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and don't be in rush and drive defensively.”

The Florida Highway Patrol also says one of the best ways to avoid an accident is to be alert, which may mean putting down you cell phone.