Q&A: Is Orange County the worst in Florida for distracted drivers?

According to research group, Orange County has most accidents in Florida

By Donovan Myrie - Investigative/Special Projects Producer

NEW YORK - Using data taken from four years of Florida crashes involving distracted driving, News 6 worked with research firm ValuePenguin.com to find out how bad texting and driving is in Orange County.

News 6 focused on two areas: how bad was distracted driving in Central Florida counties and how did Orange County compare with other large population counties in the state? ValuePenguin looked at all 67 counties, but rather than looking at just the total number of crashes caused by distracted driving, ValuePenguin also factored in both distracted driving citations written and registered drivers for each county.

The take away: Although Orange County had the most crashes linked to distracted driving in the state -- almost 7,000 in 2017 -- when you factor in registered vehicles and citations, two counties actually finished worse than Orange County. According to ValuePenguin’s findings, two other Central Florida counties were close to having the fewest distracted driving crashes.

Bailey Peterson led the research at ValuePenguin. Below is a transcript of a conversation with Peterson: 
  
WKMG: Why did ValuePenguin.com decide to do research on distracted driving in Florida?

Peterson: We decided to research distracted driving in Florida because Florida is famously lax in distracted driving laws and they also provided data both on citations issued as well as crashes countywide. We wanted to look at where distracted driving crashes were the most frequent as well as where enforcement was lacking. So, in other words, we looked at citations issued compared to the number of crashes in a county and we used those figures to determine our rankings for the worst counties in Florida for distracted driving. 

WKMG: Which were the worst counties in the state for distracted driving and how did you arrive at those conclusions?

Peterson: Going on down the line the ValuePenguin study found the five worst counties in Florida for distracted driving were Wakulla, Walton, Orange, Okaloosa and Duval counties. This is based off our ranking which factored in both the number of distracted driving crashes per thousand registered drivers in a county as well as the ratio of distracted driving citations issued to the number of crashes by county. So, judging by both these factors, Orange County ranked as the third worst county in Florida for distracted driving.

WKMG: Orange County finished third worst in the state. Was that a surprise?

Peterson: Orange County ranked as the third worst county in Florida for distracted driving which isn't necessarily a huge surprise considering it had the highest number of distracted driving crashes of any county in the state. 

WKMG: And even when just looking at the overall amount of distracted driving crashes regardless of population, Orange County didn’t do well?    

Peterson: If you just look at the number of distracted driving crashes in Orange County in 2017, it actually had the most of any county with nearly 7,000. Actually, this figure represents a 14 percent year-over-year increase from the 2016 figure. 

WKMG: Is it a fair statement to say Orange County is a dangerous place to drive?

Peterson: It would be very fair to say that Orange County is a very dangerous place to drive. Judging from our study, Orange County drivers are 2 1/2 times more likely to get into a distracted driving crash than the average Floridian.

WKMG: And Orange County didn’t do well when compared to other large counties in the state, right?

Peterson: If you were to just compare large counties in Florida say those with over a million residents, Orange County would actually come up as the number one worst in our ranking criteria.

Read the entire ValuePenguin research article here.
 

Read more Driving Change coverage: 

Sheriff Demings talks about Orange County's distracted driving record

Research shows Orange County has highest totals of crashes, deaths in Florida

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