Is Florida Safe To Visit?

Is Florida Safe To Visit?As one of the most visited states in the USA, many people assume Florida is safe. While it’s true that the Sunshine State has a robust tourism infrastructure, that doesn’t mean it’s without certain risks. Any first-time Florida tourists should take a few moments to understand the unique safety challenges in this state better.

So long as you stay in touristy areas and practice common sense, Florida is a safe place to visit. We can’t say Florida has the lowest crime rates in the nation, but the overall trend has been going down. Indeed, it’s far more important for tourists to focus on Florida’s extreme heat, hurricane season, and reckless drivers if they are genuinely concerned about safety.

Safety in Florida depends a lot on when and where you choose to visit. Hopefully, the info presented in this post will address all of your concerns before you fly into the 27th state.

Is Florida A Safe State? – Breaking Down The Key Factors

Unfortunately, we can’t give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Whether or not we classify Florida, a “safe state” largely depends on what factors you’re interested in (e.g., crime, traffic, wildlife). Also, where and when you’re traveling to Florida play crucial roles determining your vacation’s safety profile.

In the sections below, we’ll breakdown the most critical safety issues in the Sunshine State. This info should provide a “big picture” view of safety in Florida.

Crime In Florida

According to the latest data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, overall crime in Florida has been on a steady downtrend for almost 50 years. Indeed, the State of Florida announced in 2017 that total crimes were down to roughly 612,300—a 25 percent decline over seven years.

A few crimes that significantly dropped across the state include violent crimes, robberies, and property crime. Unfortunately, rape has been on the increase in Florida over the past few years.

While this general downtrend is good news, please keep in mind Florida’s crime rate is slightly above the national average. For instance, violent crime rates in Florida are at roughly 44 per 10,000 residents versus the national average of about 39 per 10,000.

As with most other states, most of the crimes in Florida tend to be concentrated in and around big cities. Indeed, many of the most dangerous cities in Florida are clustered in the southeastern counties like Miami-Dade and Broward.

Traffic Dangers In Florida

Traffic at a main highway in florida
95 North rush hour traffic Miami good one | Photo by miamibrickell

There’s no denying it: Florida has traffic safety issues. Recent statistics from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) suggests there were roughly 402,500 crashes in the Sunshine State in 2018. Of these total crashes, 2,958 were fatal, with an estimated 3,174 victims.

Unfortunately, these crash statistics have only been increasing year-on-year in the southernmost state. According to FLHSMV data, there were 402,385 total crashes in 2017 compared with 395,785 in 2016.

Florida also consistently ranks as the worst state in the nation for both pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. For instance, the non-profit organization Smart Growth America recently revealed there had been over 5,400 pedestrian deaths in Florida between 2008 – 2017. That makes Florida the least pedestrian-friendly in the nation.

Another report out of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that there are over six cyclist fatalities per 100,000 people. That’s an astonishing 60 percent higher than the second worst-ranked state of Louisiana.

Here are a few of the worst areas of the state for pedestrian-related crashes according to Smart Growth America:

  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  • Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville
  • North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven
  • Jacksonville
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater

Although these cities ranked particularly bad in terms of traffic safety, you need to be extra cautious no matter where you travel in the Sunshine State.

Florida’s Hurricane Season

Hurricane in Key west florida

The significant weather-related risk associated with Florida is the state’s susceptibility to hurricanes. It’s rare for a year to go by without at least one hurricane slamming some portion of the Sunshine State.

Officially, Florida’s hurricane season lasts from the beginning of June till the end of November with the highest chance for storms, usually in August and October. If you can’t travel outside of this timeframe, then you should keep a close eye on both local and national weather stations before and during your trip.

For extra safety, organize an evacuation plan before visiting Florida in case a hurricane forces you to leave your area.

We also strongly encourage you to download a few of these weather apps so you could keep a close eye on any potential hurricanes:

Wild Animals In Florida

The only places tourists want to see Florida wildlife are at zoos or natural parks. Outside of these controlled areas…yeah, they are not super thrilled about greeting that gator.

In general, wild animals won’t disturb you so long as you don’t encroach on their territory. As long as you leave them alone, you won’t face danger if you’re near one of Florida’s wild animals.

For more detailed info on dealing with wildlife, let’s go through a few of the more common Florida fauna.

Alligators and Crocodiles

Few animals are as closely associated with Florida as alligators. Known for their round snouts and sharp teeth, these fearsome reptiles are a relatively common sight in Florida’s marshlands, rivers, and ponds. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) believes there are at least a few alligators in every single county.

Since these creatures tend to live in wet, marshy areas, it’s especially important to look out for gators if you’re a water-sports enthusiast. The best thing you could do is give the alligator plenty of space and walk away.

While Florida also has crocodiles, you won’t come into contact with them unless you’re visiting the southern part of the state. Distinguished by their narrower snout, crocs have a similar temperament to alligators and should be treated the same way.

If you have any concerns with these reptiles, then you could call the FWC’s hotline for crocs and alligators at (866) 392-4286. You could also read through this informative post on FWC’s website.

Black Bears

Although the Florida black bear is officially an endangered species, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It’s not uncommon for black bears to become habituated to eating from a resident’s trash bin and repeatedly return to specific neighborhoods.

Sadly, bears that primarily get their food from people’s garbage are often struck by cars or forced to be put down. To help preserve this species, the FWC strongly encourages Florida’s residents to use bear-resistant containers or build caddies to deter hungry bears.

People who see a bear near their residence should get into a secure location and start making loud noises to scare the bear away. Also, if you’re going to be hiking through a wooded area, you might want to consider investing in a bear-repellant spray.

Please take a peek at this highly-reviewed bear repellant now sold on Amazon.

For more pro tips on how to deter bears, check out this webpage put together by the FWC.

Florida Panthers

Despite their high status as the state’s official animal, Florida panthers are increasingly challenging to find. Rangers at the Everglades National Park estimate there are less than 100 of these majestic creatures in the state.

So, even if you travel to wooded areas in the south and southwestern Florida, your chances of running into a panther are slim. In the unlikely event that you find yourself close to a Florida panther, here are some essential safety tips:

  • Give the panther plenty of space.
  • Don’t crouch or play dead as this makes you look like prey.
  • Stand tall and put your arms over your head to appear stronger.
  • Make direct eye contact and don’t move erratically.

You can learn more about Florida panther safety on this website put together by the FWC.

Snakes

Unlike panthers and black bears, snakes are a common sight in Florida. There are almost 45 different snake species throughout the state. Luckily for us, only six of these species are venomous.

Although snakes might look scary, they’re usually more afraid of you than you are of them. If you stand back and give the snake plenty of space, nine times out of 10, it will leave you alone. Snakes typically only bite out of self-defense when they are mishandled.

If you want to see detailed pictures of all the venomous and non-venomous snakes in Florida, please visit this “Living With Snakes” page on the FWC’s website.

Sharks

Shark attacks make for great headlines and Hollywood films, but just how common are they? Well, according to the Florida Museum, it’s more likely you’ll die from a lightning strike than from a shark bite in Florida.

Even though it’s rare for sharks to attack humans, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. Here are a few tips to help reduce your risk of getting struck by one of Florida’s seven shark species.

  • Avoid wearing shiny objects in the water as these resemble smaller fish.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Do not swim if you have a cut or wound.
  • Only swim in broad daylight.
  • Avoid excessive splashing.

Be sure to read through this detailed article on sharks put together by the Florida Museum for even more safety information.

Heat-Related Illness In Florida

If you can’t take the heat, then Florida summers aren’t for you. Although only South Florida is technically considered “tropical,” it’s impossible to avoid oppressive humidity here during the summer.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid these high temps is to travel to Florida in the winter. If that’s not an option for you, however, then you need to seriously consider the risk of heat strokes, sunburn, and skin cancer.

Here are the most effective ways to beat the heat when you’re in Florida:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Don’t overexert yourself outdoors and take frequent breaks in air conditioning.
  • Apply high-quality sunscreen a few times every day.
  • Plan plenty of indoor activities to cool down throughout your trip.
  • Wear UV-blocking eyewear.
  • Limit salty foods and dehydrating beverages like alcohol and soda.

Also, be on the lookout for symptoms of a heat stroke in friends and family. Typical warning signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Throbbing headache
  • Pale complexion

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should be taken to an air-conditioned facility ASAP. Please call 911 if you have any concerns about a heat stroke.

Another neat trick to avoid heat-related illnesses is to pack a few electrolyte packets in your luggage. In addition to making your water super tasty, these powders can seriously boost your hydration.

Be sure to look into these highly-rated Liquid I.V. Electrolyte Powders on Amazon before entering the Florida furnace.

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Due to its humid climates and damp wetlands, Florida has always been a favorite breeding ground for mosquitoes. Believe it or not, scientists estimate there are roughly 65 different species of mosquitoes in the Sunshine State.

Mosquitos are most common throughout the state after summer downpours, especially in the south. Miami consistently ranks as the worst major city for mosquitos, but you could also find these pests in abundance in Tampa and Orlando.

In recent years, there have been a few reported cases of mosquito-borne illnesses in Florida, such as Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the USA.

While diseases like EEE and West Nile virus are rare, health officials urge Floridians to do everything in their power to minimize their risk of mosquito exposure. This is especially true if you’re planning on hiking through areas in South Florida.

A few simple strategies that could make a big difference include:

  • Draining all standing water.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Choosing white or yellow-colored clothing.
  • Avoiding spandex pants.
  • Using high-quality bug repellant.

Be sure to check out this Premium Insect Repellent on Amazon before heading out on any hiking adventures.

A Closer Look At Crime In Florida

Although most crimes in Florida are at 50-year lows, tourists should be cautious about where they choose to stay. In the following sections, we’ll share some of the Sunshine State’s safest and most dangerous destinations with an emphasis on touristy locales.

Where Is The Safest Place In Florida In Terms Of Crime?

We can never predict where a crime will occur, but chances are high you won’t be a victim in any of the following Floridian cities. All of these cities have less than 2 per 1,000 violent crime incidents, and no more than 26 per 1,000 reported property crimes.

  • Key Biscayne
  • Port Orange
  • Marco Island
  • Port St. Lucie
  • Naples
  • Miami Lakes

Where Are The Least Safe Places In Florida In Terms Of Crime?

As mentioned above, southeastern counties tend to have the highest rates of crime in Florida. For instance, there were between 64,000 and 58,000 crimes reported in Broward County over the past few years. Although Miami-Dade Police say total crimes have decreased by 10 percent between 2013 – 2017, there are still roughly 40,000 reported crimes per year.

Other counties that frequently have elevated crime rates include Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, and Pinellas.

For those interested in specific city names, here are a few of the least safe “touristy” cities, according to SafeWise. Next to each of these city names, you’ll find the current rates of violent crimes and property crimes per 1,000 people, respectively.

  • West Palm Beach: 8.3 and 48.2
  • Miami Beach: 9.5 and 82
  • Daytona Beach: 11 and 56.5
  • Cocoa: 12 and 52.3
  • Riviera Beach: 13.7 and 40.5

Is Orlando Safe For Tourists?

Despite its status as the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” Orlando isn’t exactly the safest city in the USA.

US News & World Report found that there were roughly 443 violent crimes and 2,771 property crimes in the Orlando Metro Area in 2017. While both of these numbers have declined significantly in the past decade, they are still above the national averages.

That being said, most tourists visiting Orlando will probably be staying at or near the major tourist attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. As you’d expect, the security in each of these world-class resort areas is particularly robust.

Is It Safe To Walk In Orlando?

Orlando florida at night
Orlando Skyline at Night | Photo by Josh Hallett

The main thing you have to worry about when walking around Orlando is the traffic. Remember that the Orlando area always ranks as the worst for pedestrian fatalities. It’s far more likely you’ll die or get injured by a speeding driver than a violent criminal.

Since Orlando isn’t pedestrian-friendly, we highly recommend looking into reliable transportation options to whatever attractions you’re interested in. For example, Disney World and Universal Studios offer shuttle transportation on their respective properties. Many hotels nearby these iconic attractions also provide bus transportation.

For those staying on I-Drive, consider looking into the I-Ride Trolley service for an easy and safe trip around town. Using any of these transportation options could save you from a severe accident on Orlando’s notorious crosswalks.

Is It Safe To Walk In Orlando During The Night?

Orlando isn’t a pedestrian-friendly city during the day, which makes it even more dangerous for tourists after nightfall. Generally, it’s not recommended you walk around Downtown Orlando at night, especially if you’re alone.

A few areas that have gained notoriety for higher-than-average crime include the following:

  • Parramore
  • Pine Hills
  • Holden Heights

We’d strongly recommend sticking with the safer nightlife districts like Universal’s CityWalk, Disney Springs, and Pointe Orlando. If you are going to be walking around Downtown Orlando, be sure to stay alert, pre-arrange transportation, and travel in a group.

Is Miami Dangerous For Tourists?

While it may not be as dangerous as in the 80s, Miami does have a higher-than-average rate for both violent and property crime. Recent reports from Miami-Dade County Police show there’s an average of 41,000 reported crimes per year.

We should note, however, that Miami has made strides in reducing overall crime. Total crime rates in 2013, for instance, were over 45,500. One area that’s not improving, however, is rape, which increased from 396 to 464 cases between 2018 and 2019.

Solo female travelers in Miami might want to look into this easily concealable Sabre Red Pepper Spray available on Amazon.

What Is The Most Dangerous Part Of Miami?

Although Miami Beach does have a relatively high risk of property theft at 82 per 1,000 people, the most dangerous areas of Miami are far from the touristy areas. Here are a few areas to be extra careful on your trip to the area:

  • Opa-Locka
  • Miami Gardens
  • Liberty City
  • Carol City

What Is The Best Area To Stay In Miami?

For those who place primacy on security, consider booking a hotel in the following districts around Miami. All of the areas below have violent crime rates of no higher than 3 per 1,000 people.

  • Coral Gables
  • Key Biscayne
  • Miami Lakes
  • Miami Springs
  • Doral

Final Thoughts On Florida Safety

While Florida might not be Switzerland in terms of safety, it’s certainly not the most dangerous place on earth. As long as you don’t throw all caution out the window, you should have an enjoyable time on your vacation to the state.

By the way, the official Visit Florida tourism department put together these handy safety-related online resources specifically for tourists. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to look through all of our previous Florida blog posts to help you plan a safe & fun vacation.

Is Florida Safe To Visit?

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