If you live in Southwest Florida, you have no doubt noticed the increase in traffic as more snowbirds flock to the warm weather and northerners take a vacation from the knee-deep snow and blustery temperatures that have plunged below zero.

The sunshine and 70-80 degree weather we enjoy in Southwest Florida is easy for us to take for granted but is a hot commodity if you live in the Northeast or Midwest. Those areas keep getting hammered with snow, wind and ice. That’s prompting an increase in visitors and part-time residents to Southwest Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott announced last week that tourism in Florida is increasing. Lee County’s Tourist Development Council estimated that total visitation to the county last year increased to a record 4.8 million – and that the estimated economic impact rose to a record of nearly $2.8 billion.

Collier County also had a record 2013, with visitors using paid lodgings topping 1.6 million and yielding an estimated economic impact exceeding $1.6 billion.

Read more about record Southwest Florida tourism.

The economic impact is great for the area but it does make for busier — and potentially more dangerous — roadways. There are more cars, more pedestrians and more bicyclists all sharing the road.

Not only are the roads packed this time of year but some people may not be familiar with the local roads if they are visiting from somewhere else. They may not know where they are going or what lane they should be in so they may make sudden lane changes or hold up traffic while waiting to get in the lane they want.

It’s important for all drivers to be aware of the crowded streets and potential for lost drivers. We’ve all seen drivers darting into various lanes, turning right even though their left turn signal is on or trying to turn from a lane where you are supposed to go straight.

If we all pay a little extra attention and anticipate potential problems, we can help keep the roadways a little safer. Remember to follow the speed limit and obey traffic signs and signals. Watch for bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians as well as other vehicles. If you miss your turn, go to the next time you can safely do a U-turn or go around a block. It may be a little out of your way but it’s safer.

At Bernardo Injury Law, we hope you enjoy the wonderful Southwest Florida weather and have safe travels. If you do find yourself the victim of a crash, you can turn to us for help. Contact us at (239) 332-3000 or toll free at 888-428-8943, email us at gethelp@injuryinfo.org or visit our website at injuryinfo.org.