A unique South Florida practice known as lane diving is being blamed for the crash of two motorcycles near Coral Gables. Cathy Milagros Perez Garcia and Cynthia Fleischmann were traveling in the express lane of Northwest 103rd Street in Miami when they were hit by a vehicle engaged in “lane diving.” Although both Perez Garcia and Fleischmann survived the crash, the two are now suing the Florida Department of Transportation for negligence.
The issue began in 2008 when the Florida Department of Transportation installed lane delineators on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County. Consisting of flexible plastic poles that were designed to bend or snap off when struck by a vehicle, the lane delineators have been repeatedly run over by drivers who cross through them to enter the express lanes in a practice known as “lane diving.” The motorcycles being driven by Perez Garcia and Fleischman were hit on October 14, 2015, by a “lane diver” in a car who ran over the dividers before striking the motorcycles.
The Florida Department of Transportation has since upgraded the dividers in an attempt to stop lane diving. The new poles look similar but are more sturdy and can cause damage to vehicles when struck. According to attorneys involved in the case, more than 12,000 accidents were recorded as occurring in the express lanes in Miami-Dade County although it is unknown how many of these were the result of the practice of lane diving.
When the plastic delineators were originally installed in 2008, the Florida Department of Transportation set them approximately 20 feet apart. Later, the government reduced the space between the poles to 10 feet to make them appear solid from a visual perspective. Today, the lane delineators sit just five feet apart. According to attorneys, every single pole in Dade County is replaced up to eight times a year as almost 600 of them are hit and destroyed per week.
The express lanes of I-95 in Miami-Dade County are toll roads, bringing in an estimated 27.6 million dollars per year in revenue. In 2015, the state increased the maximum toll on express lanes to $10.50 in an effort to speed up traffic flow and discourage some drivers from using them. Lane diving became a popular practice as non-paying drivers crashed through the flimsy dividers to enter the special express lanes. Despite the installation of the express lanes being touted as a revenue booster, snarls and lengthy delays continue to be problems especially during rush hour and the area around the Golden Glades interchange.
Motorcycle injury attorneys for the two women injured in the 2015 lane diving incident believe that the new, sturdier dividing poles will help reduce lane diving incidents but that the only viable solution is to build solid concrete barriers between regular lanes and the express lanes to prevent future similar incidents.