By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- 'Tis the season... for car crashes. As temporary residents, visitors and holiday travelers make their way across the region, drivers can expect to see a rise in traffic accidents.
Law enforcement sources said heavier traffic brings greater congestion and an increased likelihood of car accidents.
And data from the Stuart Police Department show a spike in crashes during winter and spring months.
"That's when we have the highest volume, and most people come down for the season. You also have spring break, so it is the peak of the season," said Michael Pope, spokesman for the Stuart Police Department. "It's just the normal fluctuation in the population."
Local streets have been especially busy with residents from northeastern states, who came to the area early this year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"There's a good possibility we would have more accidents, because we have more people," said Mr. Pope, who was himself a victim of an accident crash that took place late last month.
"I got rear-ended in my police car," he said.
In October, police responded to 84 accidents, during what was their busiest month since March, according to monthly accident reports.
And in November, several major accidents made the headlines. On Thanksgiving Day, for instance, a car caught fire in Sewall's Point.
Days later on Nov. 29, Martin County Fire Rescue spokesman Doug Killane said crews clearing a previous accident on the southbound lanes of Interstate-95 responded to a seven-vehicle crash near the Kanner Highway overpass. That accident left one person dead, two critically injured and two with non-life-threatening injuries.
That same day, Stuart police officers responded to a traffic crash involving a pedestrian, who needed to be airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in critical condition after being hit by a Toyota Camry at Monterey Road and Monterey Commons Boulevard.
Accident counts are highest in February and March, when spring breakers and "snow birds" increase the volume of traffic on area streets.
Last March, Stuart police officers responded to 121 accidents, the highest for any month in the last two years.
But the good news is that monthly reports show an overall decrease in the number of accidents this year.
The latest data show police responded to 755 accidents between January and October. The count for that same period last year stood at 894. It was slightly lower during a comparable period in 2010, when police investigated 889 crashes.
"We were actually down 16 percent between September and October," Mr. Pope said.