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Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 13, 201212:00 PM EST

Report: Drivers bear much fault in fatal I-75 crash

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A 31-page report released Friday from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol concluded driver error and alcohol consumption played significant roles in the deaths of 11 people and the injuries to many more during a series of crashes in January on a smoke-shrouded stretch of Interstate 75 south of Gainesville.

The crash, which took place near Paynes Prairie shortly after 4 a.m., was prompted by smoky conditions from a nearby wildfire that led to poor visibility.

That said, drivers’ reactions to those conditions contributed to the disaster, the report noted. Some drivers stopped in the middle of travel lanes while other drivers didn’t slow down enough to be able to travel safely through the thick haze.

While additional training may help, the report’s authors said the tragedy could happen again despite the best training and protocol.

“No amount of planning or policy will take the place of driver reaction to low visibility and unpredictable conditions,” the report said.

The state is facing multiple lawsuits from drivers and their survivors following the Jan. 29 crash, which took place shortly after that stretch of road was reopened for traffic.

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