Of the stretches of Interstate 95, from Miami to Maine, none is busier than the stretch in South Florida, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Those who regularly take to I-95 in South Florida say it’s hard to imagine a more perilous stretch of interstate anywhere.
“It’s crazy. People are on their phones, speeding, it’s very scary,” said Lori Delin, who – through no fault of her own – wound up in a crash on I-95.
From drivers who treat as mere suggestions the plastic poles delineating express lanes, to those who dart along shoulders, to speeders who treat the 42-mile segment in Broward and Miami-Dade counties as their personal Autobahn, Interstate 95 is an accident waiting to happen.
Actually, 4,000 to 6,000 accidents happen each year.
Despite the best efforts of traffic planners and law enforcement, “I-95 is not safe,” said FHP Trooper Indiana Villalonga, who patrols the area around Ground Zero for I-95 crashes: the Golden Glades interchange.
“They’re just getting directions off their map and they’re going 70-plus miles per hours and they’re not looking at what’s ahead, or texting and driving, any little distraction, changing the radio, and they just don’t look,” said Villalonga, adding her best advice: Be alert, wear your seat belt and slow down.
Lori Delin says she tries to do all that, but could not avoid being rear-ended by the most crash-prone driver on Interstate 95 in Broward County.
“A car slowed down a little bit in front of me. As soon as I hit the brakes, I heard a screech and I heard a car hit me from behind,” said Delin.
NBC 6 Investigators found the driver who hit her – 35-year-old Michael Rini – has been involved in more I-95 crashes in Broward than anyone since 2011: four crashes in 21 months, rear-ending cars three times and crashing into a wall once.
Rini and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment about why Rini is so prone to crash on I-95.
But Delin said she may have gleaned a clue about his difficulties when she learned what police say they found in his car after his last crash: methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, Xanax and a bong and a digital scale.
“That would definitely be a reason to be distracted,” she said.
Rini was not charged with driving under the influence in her crash and he is free on bond awaiting trial on drug possession charges stemming from the crash following hers.
To learn where I-95 drivers are most likely to run into someone – or have someone run into them – the NBC 6 Investigators created a database of more than 24,000 crashes on Interstate 95 in South Florida from 2011 through 2014, focused on rush-hour crashes both north- and southbound, and plotted the results on maps using the GPS coordinates of the crash locations.
Here are the Dangerous Dozen – six sections of Interstate each northbound and southbound where drivers may want to pay special attention.
In the morning, headed south, crashes tend to congregate at or near:
- The county line to Copans Road
- Sunrise to Broward Boulevard
- Hollywood Boulevard to Hallandale Beach Boulevard
- the Golden Glades, starting past Ives Dairy Rd.
- 119th street to 95th street
- just before Interstate 195 to State Road 836
Headed north in the afternoon, hot spots emerge at:
- 62nd Street
- 95th Street
- The Golden Glades, starting at 135th street
- Pembroke Road
- Broward Boulevard
- Oakland Park Boulevard
Of course, one is in peril anywhere massive hulks of metal careen at high speeds in close proximity to others on 300,000 trips a day – all directed by human beings prone to texting, calling, applying make-up, switching radios, surveying electronic maps or engaging in myriad other distractions.
But, whether heading north or south, the most likely place for a crash is approaching, merging into, traversing or exiting the Golden Glades.
Still, as Delin learned, you are at most only half of the equation when it comes to avoiding a crash.
“I always drive very defensively, but you can’t avoid it if somebody wants to act like an idiot or to not pay attention or be on their phone or texting," Delin said. "You have to be very defensive.”