The geography of travel from Florida City to Key West as US 1 becomes the Overseas Highway is simple.
Except for selected, limited times, the 125-mile route is two-lane with few passing zones. For those who routinely drive into the Upper Keys, two of the “chokepoints” are at the south end of the “18-mile stretch” and at Mile Marker 90-86 north of Islamorada. Further south are two more; the traffic light at Big Pine Key and entering into Key West at the Cow Key Bridge, a spot also known as “The Triangle”.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey acknowledges multiple concerns of increased accidents. “This time of year, starting the day after Christmas is like the spigot is turned on. Even non-injury accidents can result in long back-ups and delays.”
On a high traffic, busy New Year's Eve, an 11:15 a.m. motorcycle crash happened near Mile Marker 114 of the 18-Mile Stretch, on the Miami-Dade side. An 80 year old man from Canada ran into the back of a Chevy Suburban at high speed and was killed. Traffic was shut down completely on the stretch until 2:30 pm, but extensive delays continued on the stretch and Card Sound Road into the early evening.
While Card Sound Road from Florida City to Key Largo does offer an alternative, it has been the scene of many accidents as well as fatalities such as on January 1, 2021 when another motorcyclist was killed. The hours-long closures of the area where a fatality occurs is because each incident has to be treated as a potential homicide investigation in the event the driver is subsequently charged.
Although that portion of Card Sound Road is in Miami-Dade County, Sheriff Ramsey explains well-documented issues of the narrow road with poor shoulders, faint line markings, and the habit of people to speed as well as pass recklessly. Suggestions they have provided are to install “center delineators” like they have on Krome Avenue, rumble strips at the edge of the road, and designate it as a no-passing zone.
In other Miami-Dade fatalities, Florida Highway Patrol provided the following information about a wreck January 1, 2020. “A black Chevrolet Tahoe, with three occupants was traveling westbound on W. Flagler St. approaching W, 79th Ave. A blue Hyundai Elantra, with four occupants was traveling south on W 79th Ave and was attempting to turn left to go east on Flagler St. Lights were flashing yellow for Flagler St and red for W 79 Ave. As the Hyundai entered the intersection, the front of the Tahoe collided into its left side. This caused the right front passenger to become ejected. The remaining three occupants of the Hyundai remained in the vehicle as both vehicles came to final rest still stuck together.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue confirmed all four occupants of the Hyundai died on scene (1 adult female & 3 adult males) The occupants of the Tahoe (3 - 16 year old males) were transported to Kendall Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Troopers are looking into alcohol/drugs and excessive speed as a contributing factor. Investigation is currently active.”
As a reminder, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) website cites: “Driving under the influence (DUI) inhibits your ability to drive safely. Alcoholic beverages, controlled substances, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medications can cause impairment. Driving impaired puts you and everyone else on the road in danger.”
Another common factor in accidents is: “Categories of Driver Distraction are: Visual, taking your eyes off the road; Manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and Cognitive, thinking about anything other than driving. It is extremely risky behavior that puts everyone on the road in danger.”
The population of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties continues to increase, and despite some travel reductions, there are still seasonal residents or visitors escaping cold weather who add to the vehicle density. Traffic will be even heavier than usual for weeks to come.
Periodic delays, especially on the Overseas Highway, are frustrating. Defensive driving and extra caution are always advised.