SARASOTA (WWSB) - Sarasota was recently named the best place to live in Florida. While that poll focused on the best part of our community, a recently released study is focusing on the worst part. The Sarasota area was named the most dangerous place in Florida for alcohol-related car accidents.
According to the website Value Penguin, Sarasota saw more than 12 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents on average over the last three years. That makes Sarasota nearly twice as deadly as the second most dangerous city - Lakeland.
This study comes just two days after a fatal crash happened in North Port this past weekend, making it the third time in less than a month that there was a fatal accident in Sarasota County that involved alcohol.
"There needs to be more awareness. You know, as a community, we’re kind of in a shell shock,” Amanda Sullivan, a North Port parent who has lost multiple family members due to drunk driving accidents, expressed.
The recent string of deadly DUIs began on March 24, when a couple was killed right outside of the CoolToday Park. Police say 20-year-old Samantha King slammed into the victims at the intersection of US 41 and West Villages Parkway.
Just a week later, on April 6, a 19-year-old driver – who police say had been drinking – was arrested after she lost control of her car and it flipped over, injuring 11 passengers inside her SUV and killing one teenager from North Port Hugh School.
"It’s very scary, and it’s something again - being personally affected by it multiple times, I think it’s an awareness that I already had, not necessarily about Sarasota County being number one, but about how often it’s happening and how many people aren’t getting caught,” Sullivan said.
In this study, the danger of being killed in a DUI crash in Sarasota increased by 73% this year.
"Unfortunately I’m not that surprised. You have to remember that Sarasota is one of the most beautiful places in the United States so based off of the numbers alone, we’re going to have additional people out there doing things that they should not be doing,” State Trooper Kenneth Watson tells us.
The Florida Highway Patrol is constantly adding DUI stops and pulling people over if they seem to be distracted behind the wheel. However, they say they there’s only so much they can do to stop people before tragedy happens.
"Every day we’re out trying to do everything we can to try and be progressive, and make sure that these crashes do not happen. Everything that we do is to try to make your journey in that vehicle a little bit safer,” State Trooper Watson explained.
The Florida Highway Patrol says they will be teaming up with local law enforcement to bring more awareness of the dangers of drunk driving in schools, as well as in popular areas around the Suncoast.