Stretching 148 miles from Florida’s west coast to the east coast, SR 70 spans five counties and straddles the northern boundaries of two additional ones—from Bradenton in Manatee County through DeSoto, Highlands, and Okeechobee Counties to Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County. In Manatee County on the west coast it is a principal arterial and a primary east-west highway and provides regional access to employment centers, agricultural lands, and residential areas across the state. SR 70 is part of the designated Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) highway network.
Unfortunately, it has become a hot-spot for traffic accidents. In 2021 alone, at least 37 people lost their lives in fatal car crashes on State Road 70, U.S. 27, U.S. 98, State Road 64, and numerous side roads. It was recently reported in the Highlands News-Sun that 2021 saw nearly a doubling of traffic fatalities:
“They came in threes and fours, but for the most part, the list of 2021 traffic fatalities was compiled one crash at a time. By year’s end, State Roads 64 and 70, U.S. 27, U.S. 98, and side roads had claimed a minimum of 37 lives. They were sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, babies, children, students, retirees—the roads spare no one.”
The Florida Highway Patrol, the Sebring Police Department, and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the fatalities.
As recently as February 6, 2022, State Road 70 West in Highlands County (Lake Placid area) was the scene of another head-on fatal crash in the area of Robert McGee Road between mile marker 72 and 73. In the month of November 2021, at least three other people were killed in car crashes on SR 70. Some of the causes of major car accidents on SR 70 are speeding, wrong-way drivers, encounters with adverse construction conditions and objects, and failure to yield to merging and lane-changing drivers.
Where SR 70 intersects major routes, there are particular danger spots that include SR 64 and I-75 in Manatee County near Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton, the intersection of SR 70 and US 98, the intersection of SR 70 and US 27 in Lake Placid, and the intersection of SR 70 and US 301 that goes to Ellenton. Most of the crashes of State Road 70 happen while drivers are driving east on State Road 70.
Head-on crashes and fatal car accidents are exacerbated by long-term, ongoing construction projects involving repairing and widening up to four and even six lanes along SR 70. These improvements were initiated to upgrade operational conditions, enhance safety along the corridor, and boost connectivity to regional transportation networks.
Because SR 70 serves as one of the only major east-west roadways crossing all of central Florida, it connects to other recognized freight facilities of the state. As such the highway is heavily used by tractor-trailer trucks and is critical to sustaining several regional economies. But for these and other passenger vehicles, long stretches of two-lane sections with narrow guard rails and little to no shoulder room on each side can present a clear and present danger.
So if you find yourself needing to travel on Florida’s SR 70 in the near future—especially east bound—put your patience and civility cap on. And take precautions that include allowing time for multiple causes for delays and being aware of potential hazards caused by construction projects on this heavily used highway.