NewsCovering Florida


'It begs us to do better': FHP's fight against fatality crashes

FHP evidence lot
Posted at 8:44 PM, Nov 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-23 20:44:23-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Every car in the Florida Highway Patrol evidence parking lot has a story. The story starts with a driver behind a wheel.

The ending could be the loss of life, a person was seriously injured or a driver is now behind bars.

Florida Highway Patrol works day in and day out trying to prevent crashes so you do not get a knock at your door.

"Your loved one was involved in a motor vehicle crash," said Lt. Greg Bueno with FHP, who has had to tell that phrase to families for the past 28 years.

Between the six southwest Florida counties, law enforcement has had to break that news nearly 400 times in the past two years.

Bueno says he has been to thousands of crashes, and would hate to even put a number on it.

He has seen the worst of the worst, and what's left over of those crashes go in the evidence impound lot Fox 4 got special access to.

At one time, they can have up to 180 vehicles in it, but they're more than just that.

"You can just automatically tell there’s just no way conceivable that someone could survive this crash," Bueno said about a mangled truck. "This is someone’s son, someone’s daughter, mother, father, child, grandparent."

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles crash data dashboard tracks every crash in the state.

As of November 18, 196 people have died in a crash in southwest Florida. Keep in mind, the year isn't over.

In 2022, 265 people died. Bueno says there are many factors involved.

"We have more people now," he said. "It’s more congested."

With tourists coming in, they're on high alert.

"We’re certainly getting bigger and naturally, every year we’re concerned because naturally we get an influx of population, during the season time especially," Bueno explained.

Drivers are not just sharing the road with other cars. You have bicyclists and people walking.

"If a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, or a vulnerable user in excess of 30 mph, there is a 50:50 chance that person is going to lose their life," Bueno said.

He says when it comes to crashes, there's no common denominator.

"Certainly speeding, following too close and distractions," he said. "Then you couple in your impaired drivers, your sleepy drivers, your red light runners."

While not every crash is the same, there is a common theme.

"They are preventable by being responsible, being cautious, abiding by all Florida traffic laws," Bueno said. "Your actions matter every single time you get behind the wheel."

Actions you can take to protect yourself, others and families so no one gets a knock at their door with a heart wrenching message from law enforcement.

"If this is not a solemn reminder to all of us to do better — put our phones down, abide by the speed limit, drive sober, well-rested," he said. " all those necessary things to prevent tragedies like this."