Vehicle crashes are increasing throughout Orange County but one stretch of Interstate 4 near Universal’s Volcano Bay has seen accidents jump by 55 percent over last year.
There were 31 crashes with 12 injuries on I-4 between Kirkman and Sand Lake roads from Nov. 1, 2015 to May 16, 2016. The number of crashes increased to 48 with 31 injuries from Nov. 1, 2016 to May 16 of this year, according to data from the Florida Highway Patrol.
FHP has not determined what factors caused the increase. Sgt. Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol said lower gas prices, the I-4 Ultimate construction project and more distractions on the road are all contributing factors.
“We will never know why the crashes occurred unless every driver at fault was interviewed (and was honest) about what caused their crash,” Montes said. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years and there are so many factors that cause crashes – distractions, alcohol, drugs. Gas prices are lower so more people are on the roads. A few years ago, gas prices were high and we had more motorcycle accidents because people were buying cheaper modes of transportation.”
Some have pointed to the construction of Universal’s Volcano Bay as a distraction that may have caused accidents along that busy section of I-4. But Montes said the 200-foot-tall volcano and surrounding water park cannot be blamed for the increase.
Universal Orlando failed to return a reporter’s calls about the crashes. Volcano Bay will hold its grand opening Thursday.
The highway patrol saw an uptick of accidents when the Orlando Eye was under construction as gawkers slowed to look at the new attraction. However, once drivers got accustomed to the change in scenery, the accident rate dropped back to normal, Montes said.
Other dangerous crash areas include I-4 from Lee Road to Maitland Boulevard and portions of Orange Blossom Trail, State Road 436 and State Road 50 in Orange County, according to FHP.
Construction on I-4 has presented challenges for enforcement in some areas where there are no shoulders to safely pull over drivers. Montes said there are no plans to increase patrols.