Exceptional citrus, abundant sunshine, beautiful beaches: there’s a lot to love about Florida. In 2022, approximately 320,000 people packed their bags and flocked to the Sunshine State, boosting its population by nearly 2%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With that influx of new residents, Florida became the most popular state to move to last year. But little do these newly-relocated folks know that they’re signing up for a hidden peril: Florida has the worst drivers in the country, based on research from Clever Move.

From uninsured motorists to a higher-than-average traffic fatality rate, you’ll want to buckle up if you’re planning a move to Florida.

Warm Sunshine – Even Warmer Business Climate

Many individuals moving to Florida are drawn by its great weather and lack of state income tax. It’s easy to imagine yourself spending long days lounging on the Gulf Coast’s pristine beaches and keeping more of your paycheck while you’re at it.

And people aren’t moving long-distance for this change of scenery. According to research from the real estate website Home Bay, 61% of all moves in 2022 were less than 20 miles, but includes Americans who live alongside state borders moving. Think popping south over the Georgia line to escape state tax and getting a quarter percentage point decrease in your corporate tax rate, for example.

From space exploration to cruise lines and homeland security, Florida’s diverse industries contribute to its $1 trillion GDP. Businesses are soaking up the rays of Florida’s low corporate tax rate (just 5.5% in 2022) and lighter regulations. This business-friendly environment makes for more job opportunities and a relatively low unemployment rate.

Florida also demonstrated remarkable resilience after the Covid pandemic. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reports that cities like Ocala, Tallahassee, and Deltona experienced the highest job recovery numbers in a state that averaged an employment boost of 4.6% in 2022.

But if the prospect of warmer weather, beaches, business breaks, and alligators as neighbors aren’t enough to convince you, consider this: in 2021, the annual Mindbody Wellness study ranked the largest city in Florida – Miami – the happiest in the United States.

Yielding To Bad Drivers

But don’t schedule the moving van just yet.

Florida’s drivers are an eclectic mix of snowbirds, remote workers, retirees, and tourists, all jockeying for their space on crowded roads. These drivers come from all over the country, bringing their own unique driving habits and assumed road rules. It’s a chaotic blend of traffic, seasoned with a dose of road rage and served with a side of bumper-to-bumper congestion.

This potent combination of drivers from all over the country on a collision course with an unfamiliar landscape has disastrous consequences: Florida boasts three cities with the worst drivers in the U.S. – Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa – in order of most to slightly less awful. These cities have earned their dubious distinction by ranking high in the worst possible ways.

The Cost of Insurance

In Tampa, the average annual cost to insure a vehicle hovers around $3,459. This is the fifth-highest rate for insurance in the country. And because it’s so expensive, 20% of Florida drivers are uninsured. This is 54% higher than the average of other cities in the survey.

Even those who properly insure their cars are not immune to the high cost of driving in Florida. Uninsured motorist coverage adds another $100 or more to your annual bill. In addition to the squeeze on your wallet, dealing with uninsured motorists and the fallout from a collision can also cause immeasurable stress.

The Risk Behind The Wheel

Long days spent drinking frozen daiquiris on the beach can result in disastrous consequences behind the wheel. In Jacksonville, alcohol-related driving deaths occur at 2.9 per 100,000 residents. The average city in Clever Move’s study experiences just a third of that.

Removing alcohol from the equation doesn’t decrease the fatality rate either. At 9.1 per 100,000 residents, Orlando on its own has almost seven more driving deaths per capita than the average city in the U.S. And in Jacksonville, the number one city with the worst drivers in the U.S., nearly 11 people per 100,000 die.

The Good Outweighs The Bad

The roads in Florida are paved with plenty of bad drivers.

While this may lead to many people reconsidering their choice to relocate, Florida continues to add thousands of residents seeking the sand, the sea, and the sun every year.

They might be dodging tourists who are unfamiliar with the roads or keeping up with Autobahn-like interstates, but they are happy to be home.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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