98 Problems with Highway 98

Since 1992 Vince Bruner has devoted his practice solely to work as a Plaintiff's personal injury lawyer, dedicated to assisting people injured in accidents.

by: Peggy Bruner

The personal injury lawyers with The Bruner Law Firm outline 98 problems with Highway 98.

  1. Texting – Most likely the number one cause of accidents in our era, especially when coupled with co-factors such as drinking, drug use, and speeding. Despite Florida enacting legislation to combat texting and driving (which is rarely enforced), it only seems to have worsened in recent years.
  2. Never-ending construction in Destin – Beginning in September 2017, the Florida Department of Transportation has attempted to widen Highway 98. FDOT attributes the more than 18-month delay to “some weather delays.”
  3. Tourists – Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. We know tourists aren’t as aware of their surroundings as us locals are, but sharing the road with drivers who are on vacation time ain’t easy.
  4. Blinkers – Often overused by tourists who aren’t quite sure where their next turn is or those who are simply blissfully unaware and underused by most, Highway 98 drivers can’t seem to catch a blinking break!
  5. Hurricanes – From the flooding, down powerlines, tree branches, debris to the total washout and wash away of sections of the highway, Mother Nature puts 98 to the test every hurricane season.
  6. Alcohol – There’s a countless numbering of watering holes along the Florida Panhandle’s Highway 98, and it’s no secret that their patrons often get in their cars highly overconfident in their driving ability. Alcohol alone is dangerous behind the wheel but add any other factor on this list, and it’s a recipe for a deadly disaster. There’s no excuse for drunk driving in the age of ride-sharing, but that doesn’t mean alcohol-related fatalities on Highway 98 have decreased.
  7. Crab Island – Crab Island’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last several years. On any given sunny summer day, you’ll see many visitors parking their vehicles alongside the Destin Bridge and using less traditional vessels (like kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or even inflatable boats) to make their way out to the beloved Crab. This additional traffic, along with the Destin Bridge drivers who brake and stop to admire the crystal blue waters of Crab Island and Noriega Point, a rear-end car crash pinch point.
  8. Destin Bridge Bottlenecks – Despite the city’s best efforts to regulate the Destin Bridge traffic speed, there are countless accidents caused at the base of the bridge caused by reckless, inattentive, and high-speed drivers. At peak hours, there are so many vehicles from the surrounding areas trying to go over the two-lane bridge that can only hold so many cars at a given time.
  9. Okaloosa Island – You might be an 850 resident if you’ve sat in standstill Okaloosa Island traffic for over an hour. Car crashes on Okaloosa Island can result in standstill traffic that can last for hours and backups that end into Destin and Okaloosa Island.
  10. Lack of lighting on 98 in South Walton – The stretch of 98 that runs north of Scenic Highway 30a is exceptionally dimly lit, making it difficult to see cyclists, wildlife, and pedestrians when the sun is down.
  11. Deer – Deer aren’t a major issue for the more populated stretches of Highway 98, but the dimly lit length running north of Scenic Highway 30A is home to many whitetail deer. Sadly, these beautiful creatures have been involved in many fatal accidents along Highway 98.
  12. Rain – Despite being part of the Sunshine State, the Florida Panhandle experiences roughly 100 rainy days a year. (Apalachicola has an average of 93 days, Crestview – 117 days, DeFuniak Springs -111 days, Niceville – 114 days, Panama City – 105 days, Pensacola – 109 days, and Tallahassee – 111 days.)
  13. Summertime – The peak season is great for all the small businesses in our community, but not for our local traffic. The very second schools close for summer, you can expect to see a surge in Highway 98 traffic and car accidents.
  14. Pedestrian Confusion in downtown Destin – The City of Destin has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars studying and implementing pedestrian crosswalks in downtown Destin in the last decade. Despite their best efforts, many pedestrians don’t understand how to properly use these crosswalks and dangerous drivers who don’t properly yield to pedestrians.
  15. Failing to Look Twice – The Florida Panhandle on a sunny day is truly one of the most beautiful places to ride a motorcycle. It’s no surprise that Highway 98 can be one of the most dangerous places for motorcycle riders and those who fail to look twice, check their blind spots, and responsibly share the road with our two and three-wheeled friends.
  16. Not sharing the road – Cyclists and pedestrians have a dangerous disadvantage when sharing any road but especially with drivers who aren’t aware of cycling road rules or fail to give extra room to those using the shoulder or bike lanes along Highway 98. Many drivers believe that cyclists belong solely on sidewalks; however, in Florida, bicycles are allowed to operate on sidewalks or roadways. When using roadways, cyclists must follow the same rights and rules as drivers, and drivers should take extra care to share the roads with cyclists safely.
  17. Meth/Opiates/Drugs – It’s difficult to accurately know just how many DUIs involve methamphetamine, opiates, and other illegal substances due to testing issues. But it’s no mystery that drivers (and even pedestrians and cyclists) under the influence of drugs cause some of the most horrific accidents on Highway 98.
  18. Tailgating – Highway 98 is a perilous place to tailgate given the number of stoplights, attractions, and speed changes along its path. Always leave at least two car lengths between your car and the car in front of yours.
  19. Chik-Fil-A – The Home of Chicken Sandwich can be a literal traffic stopper, especially along the stretches of Highway 98 near Chik-Fil-A’s Destin and Miramar locations which often have lines wrapped around the building.
  20. Spring Breakers – A unique array of underaged and often intoxicated tourists wreak havoc on our community and roadways from March to May every year. These drivers are often too focused on having a good time and not on the cars in front of them.
  21. Smartphones – Once thought to be the greatest invention of the 21st century, these shiny, highly addictive tools cause an extreme amount of distraction, and in turn, fatalities when used while driving.
  22. smartphone distractionHigh-Speed Chases – The suspect-driver and police officers involved in a high-speed chase can create danger for other drivers on the road.
  23. Trees – Highway 98 is lined by many Pine trees that have unfortunately been a stopping point for many drivers who lose control of the wheel.
  24. Pulling out into high-speed traffic without looking – There are so many intersections and speed limit changes along Highway 98, it can be challenging to estimate how fast oncoming traffic is. Always look twice, and when in doubt about the speed of oncoming vehicles, be patient and wait until traffic is totally clear before entering Highway 98.
  25. Brooks Bridge left turn lane confusion – Out-of-towners, unfamiliar and unfocused drivers often make a frustrating mistake and attempt to make a left turn at the bottom of the Brooks Bridge, despite the clear No Left Turn signs at the light, which can cause rear-end accidents from vehicles driving at high speeds over the bridge, and T-bone crashes with drivers coming from the opposite direction.
  26. Brooks Bridge bottleneck/accidents – Like the Destin Bridge, the Brooks Bridge can only hold so many cars at one time. During events like Billy Bowlegs, you can expect to see delays and standstill traffic here. Nothing is more frustrating than the traffic that follows after there’s been an accident on the Brooks Bridge, which can take hours for EMS, police, and tow trucks to respond to and clear.
  27. Hit & Runs – Leaving the scene of an accident is truly one of the most despicable ways to handle a car crash, especially when injuries are involved. Highway 98 is no stranger to drivers who think they can get away with anything.
  28. Driving on the wrong side of the road – often related to intoxicating substance use, there’s nothing scarier than seeing headlights coming toward you. Sadly, Highway 98 sees its fair share of this conduct in the few places where opposite traffic is not divided by a median or in the rare instances where drivers cross an entire median.
  29. Guard Rails – Like pine trees, an unfortunate but common stopping point for vehicles that have lost control.
  30. Medians – Although created to make roads safer, overly creative landscaping designs and confusing arrows, dotted and straight lines, can cause driver confusion and blind spots leading to car crashes.
  31. 5:00 PM Traffic – Rush hour traffic seems to impact highway 98 virtually 365 days of the year.
  32. 9:00 AM Traffic – Between morning commuters and tourists, 9:00 AM traffic is the second busiest time of day for Highway 98.
  33. Speed Traps – there seems to be an infinite number of speed changes across Highway 98, and police officers are no stranger to them.
  34. Fog – A somewhat rare weather condition for the Emerald Coast, but common during the winter, many drivers fail to turn their lights on or have faulty brake lights, which can cause deadly rear-end accidents.
  35. Road Rage – Sadly, our community has seen a recent fatality caused by road rage. Traffic can cause extreme stress in some drivers. You truly never know who’s behind the wheel of other vehicles on the road. Use this list to predict times or situations you should avoid and enjoy 98 at her best.
  36. Sand – You might be a local if you’ve watched a vehicle actively getting stuck on Okaloosa Island, spinning sand into the air, and digging their car a sand grave. The sand along Highway 98 also creates a dangerous terrain change for vehicles that lose control and veer off the highway’s inner or outer shoulder.
  37. Litter – Whether it’s a giant inflatable pool float that’s come detached from a truck bed or fast food tossed out of the window, litter can be annoying, harmful, and dangerous to other drivers. Always keep at least two car lengths between you and the car in front of you so that you can
  38. Time – Florida attracts the elderly, and while we love to see Grandma and Grandpa get their healthy dose of Vitamin D in the Sunshine State, it’s no secret they’re not the safest drivers on the road.
  39. Lack of alternate routes – there aren’t many other main roads that run parallel to highway 98, and big events and accidents can leave drivers with little choice but to grin and bear bumper-to-bumper traffic delays quite often. Fortunately, Panama City has made major headway on “Back-Back Beach Road” and will hopefully reduce traffic delays for Bay County drivers near Pier Park.
  40. Commuters – running late to work can cause commuters to be stressed and drive recklessly to avoid being excessively late. Knowing when traffic is at its peak on Highway 98, depending on the time of day, the season, and whether any local events are going on, can help you predict better times to head to work and avoid heavy traffic.
  41. Rolling Coal – It’s fascinating that some truck owners would pay someone to modify their exhaust to blow large clouds of smoke into the air for no real purpose. Some see this as an anti-environmental statement, while others see these trucks farting clouds of coal, but in extreme cases, it can cause a brief lack of visibility for other drivers.
  42. Loud Music – can annoy drivers and also drown out horns and surrounding noise that might help drivers avoid accidents
  43. Snowbirds – our community is so fortunate to have snowbirds keep our tourism industry busy in the winter, but in the one time of year our roads start to see less traffic, we see an uptick of Canadian and northern license plates driving far under the speed limit, leaving their blinkers on for too long, and a few drivers who may not have had the license re-examination required for drivers over 80 – fact check
  44. Going slow in the passing lane – it’s against the law in Florida to pass someone in the right lane unless under exceptional circumstances. This makes it especially annoying when slower drivers hang out in the left lane.
  45. Rubbernecking – slowing down and looking at accidents can exacerbate bad traffic and create more accidents. Leave car crash investigation to road patrol and just keep moving along at a safe speed with plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you.
  46. Seagulls – Seagulls and other wildlife can be attracted to food and litter that’s been left behind from vehicles on highway 98, creating a moving obstacle for cars on the road.
  47. seagullConstruction trailers & their debris post-hurricane – Construction workers are vital to our community, especially following a major hurricane. Unfortunately, large trailers carrying repair and building materials create nasty blind spots for drivers and another source of potential litter and debris that can cause accidents. You would be shocked to see the damage that an unsecured ladder can cause to another driver and the dangerous domino effect it can have on surrounding vehicles.
  48. Median misuse – Leaving your car’s rear end dangling into the road is not only annoying but extremely dangerous. Accidents caused in this way can spin vehicles around, drive cars to merge out of their lane improperly and create frustrating and unsafe blind spots for drivers on the other side of the road.
  49. No Brake lights – Rear-end accidents are the most common accidents we see on Highway 98. Having failed brake lights is the last thing you would want to be wrong with your vehicle on this high-speed road.
  50. No lights on at night or in foggy conditions – While much of Highway 98 is very well lit, some stretches have minimal lighting. Drivers must use their lights during the few foggy days we have in the winter and spring because there are so many stoplights on high-speed stretches of Highway 98 that can make it very difficult to see stopped or slow vehicles very far ahead.
  51. Speed Racers – Highway 98 has so many scenic stretches that make it a popular route for car enthusiasts. Car enthusiasts and speed demons should be aware that racing on the highway is not only dangerous and illegal but on Highway 98, it’s especially unwise. Many drivers turn on and off the road without paying proper attention, so many stoplights, cyclists, and pedestrians. This is not the highway you want to rev your engine on.
  52. Blind Spot Riders – Fortunately, many new cars have sensors on the side view mirrors showing when a vehicle is riding in or approaching your blind spot, but that doesn’t excuse drivers who hang out in these areas. Whenever possible, you should avoid driving diagonally to other vehicles on the road to avoid collisions and allow proper passing.
  53. ATVs on the side of the road – You may have seen ATVs or other low-speed vehicles riding alongside Highway 98 on the west end of Walton County. We love a good ride through the mud, but these vehicles should avoid riding too close to Highway 98 to avoid causing distraction or collision with inattentive drivers.
  54. Hydroplaning + dips in the road – It’s always safest to drive at lower speeds in heavy rain and when there are large visible puddles on the road. Many dips along Highway 98 allow rain to pool, creating nasty hydroplaning traps. Always try to give space to other vehicles on the road during bad weather so that everyone can try to avoid these puddles when necessary.
  55. Speed Limit Changes – It’s hard to believe there’s any single mile of Highway 98 with the same speed limit. There are so many different speed limits, creating more opportunities for speed traps and greater differences in speed amongst drivers who are familiar and unfamiliar with the road. Always be on the lookout for speed limit signs along the medians and right side of Highway 98, and when in doubt, follow the speed of surrounding traffic.
  56. Cyclists who don’t know the rules of the road – You might have an 850-area code if you’ve ever seen a bicyclist driving on the wrong side of the road, cut across traffic, and get a whiff of booze from him within the confines of your car. There are many bold bicycle riders along Highway 98, and while teaching them proper bicycle laws may be a lost cause, drivers should be alert and aware of their unpredictability.
  57. Big Kahunas – An iconic and historic local attraction we all love to be at, but driving to, from, and around can be a headache at the very least and dangerous on a bad day.
  58. Silver Sands Outlet Mall – If you’re a local, you know that the outlet mall during the summer, around Christmas, and on any rainy day during the peak season can be a total nightmare as far as parking and traffic go.
  59. The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island – Parking at the Boardwalk can easily and quickly filled up on a warm spring day, leaving many no option but to park across the street. Thankfully, the speed limit along this stretch has been lowered and more strictly enforced; however, this is one place on Highway 98 you should never gamble on crossing unless in the proper crosswalk at the traffic lights.
  60. Pier Park – One of Panama City Beach’s most popular attractions undoubtedly contributes to a substantial amount of traffic. The changes in the speed limit, number of stoplights, and proportion of out-of-town drivers make the stretch of 98 along Pier Park one of the most common places for rear-end accidents. It’s especially important to pay attention to the road here, avoid checking your cell phone, and leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you when you come to a stop to prevent pile-up collisions.
  61. 331 Intersection – whether it’s drivers who blow through the red light, those trying to speed through the yellow left turn signal, or those distracted and causing rear-end accidents, this intersection sees a high number of dangerous accidents.
  62. Highway 20 Backups – The lack of reasonable alternate routes causes traffic overflows from Highway 20 to Highway 98 and vice versa.
  63. Parasailing Distractions – Depending on how long you’ve lived in the area, you may have heard local folklore of the time when a woman who was parasailing became caught in the power lines above Highway 98. It happened – and fortunately, the woman survived thanks to a fast-acting Gulf Power employee. Fortunately, parasailing companies stay far away from Highway 98 today, but it should come as no surprise that tourists can be mesmerized by parasailors and other watercraft.
  64. parasailingAirport Road, Destin – Traffic around Destin’s Chik-Fil-A, The Track, and Big Kahunas can push many drivers to take the Airport Road back road. Unfortunately, the standstill traffic on Highway 98 can leave many drivers so frustrated that their speed and recklessness increase exponentially as soon as they find an alternate route.
  65. Windsurfing Distractions – Just like parasailing, we can’t help but look at these amazing athletes floating and flipping over Choctawhatchee Bay that runs right next to Okaloosa Island’s Highway 98.
  66. Base Traffic from Hurlburt – In 2013, Hurlburt Field and local leadership began constructing a bridge at Highway 98 and Cody Avenue to alleviate brutal rush hour traffic. Now, Santa Rosa County Commissioners are looking for ways to reduce highly congested intersections along Highway 98 in Navarre.
  67. Base Traffic from Eglin – Rush hour traffic near Hurlburt and Eglin can cause extremely lengthy delays. Fortunately, Santa Rosa County is working to create a Navarre Bypass through Eglin. How the county will pay for it seems to be the biggest issue for now.
  68. Carolina SquatCarolina Squat is also known as lowering your truck’s rear (or other vehicle’s) and raising the front. This truck modification affects not only the aesthetic but also the performance and safety of the vehicle, significantly reducing the visibility depending on the exaggeration of the “squat” and can point headlights too high instead of straight as they were designed to be. The “squat” can also create other issues with the vehicle’s suspension and load-carrying ability. Regardless, it’s one of the most common car modifications spotted on Highway 98.
  69. Rental Cars – Driving a car you’re unfamiliar with in an unfamiliar place can be a recipe for disaster for some drivers. Many tourists find themselves in this perfect storm.
  70. Slingshots – We love these three-wheeled vehicles, but many tourists who rent these can get a little too excited and often reckless behind the wheel of these increasingly popular slingshots.
  71. Golf Carts – There are many places in the Florida Panhandle where golf carts are meant to be driven, but Highway 98 is not one. Not only is it annoying to have to dodge or weave around golf carts on Highway 98, but it’s extremely dangerous for golf cart drivers and passengers.
  72. Cigarette Butts Galore – You don’t have to participate in a street cleanup to know that smokers along Highway 98 flick their cigarette butts out the window without batting an eye. Destin, fortunately, has residents banding together to adopt roadway sections to lessen this seemingly small but significant impact of tourism. Don’t be a butt-head; dispose of your cigarettes where they belong.
  73. Boats on the Road – Boats on trailers create major blind spots for drivers and can wreak havoc if they come detached or are involved in accidents.
  74. Three-Day Weekends – Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend are notoriously high traffic times for the 850. The influx of out-of-towners and the necessity to celebrate bring more congestion and more severe accidents. If at all possible, these are great weekends to avoid Highway 98 or use extreme caution and care when you must.
  75. New Year’s Eve – Universally known as one of the most dangerous days to be on the road, especially on Highway 98.
  76. High School Graduation – Like New Year’s Eve, you can guarantee there will be more inexperienced drivers on the road and some intoxicated. If at all possible, these are great nights to stay home and avoid Highway 98 at the very least.
  77. Young Drivers – Young, inexperienced drivers often fail to use blinkers, change lanes properly, may be ignorant to the rules of the road or the dangers of reckless driving. Young drivers are often suffering from sleep deprivation which can be deadly. Highway 98 is a route with many obstacles. If you’re teaching a young driver on this road, it’s best to do so in low congestion hours.
  78. Improper U-Turns – There are many intersections and medians along Highway 98 that prohibit U-turns. It’s essential to follow the signs along these medians and intersections – there’s always a reason why U-turns are not permitted in a given area. That reason is almost always to help drivers avoid dangerous crashes.
  79. Impatience – it can lead to road rage, reckless driving, speeding, excessive lane changing, and many other bad habits on the road. The best way to make good time on the road is to focus on the road and watch the cars’ patterns in front of you.
  80. Improper Signals at U-Turn – Many drivers who attempt a U-turn forget to use their left turn signal, which can confuse other drivers at an intersection or on the opposite side of the road. Always use your left turn signal when making a U-turn.
  81. Failing to Yield – one of the most common causes of traffic accidents along Highway 98. It is often caused by over-ambitious drivers attempting to make a left turn when traffic coming from the opposite direction also has a green light. Always use extreme caution when attempting to make a left turn when both directions have green lights, look twice, and be patient. It’s never worth it to risk your life and the life others.
  82. Passing in the Right Lane – All Florida drivers should know that generally speaking, you should only pass in the left lane. Of course, there are exceptions – see when passing in the right lane is permitted here
  83. Power Lines – Hurricanes, nasty storms, and cars crashing into power lines can all contribute to snapping these fiery wires, causing destruction, injuries, and significant traffic delays. Despite the number of down power lines on Highway 98 over the years, they remain in the sky. While the lines could be buried to avoid these issues, some estimate the cost of burying one mile of power lines to be $1 million or more.
  84. Highway Shoulder Drop-Offs – While much of Highway 98 has an adequate shoulder or emergency lane, many stretches have deep shoulder-drop offs that tires can easily get caught in, especially with heavy rain, causing vehicles to lose control.
  85. Sleep Deprivation – Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as intoxicated driving. Highway 98 can have young drivers, truckers with extremely long hours, tourists traveling at early or late hours, and commuters heading to or from work on the road all the same time; it’s clear that many drivers are likely suffering from this condition.
  86. Running Red Lights – Traffic, recklessness, impatience, and inattentiveness can all contribute to drivers make the poor decision to run red lights along Highway 98. Even if you have a green light at an intersection of Highway 98, it’s wise to look both ways and be aware of the possibility that a driver could easily blow through an intersection.
  87. Defective Equipment – Broken headlights, taillights, brake lights, brakes, or other unreliable vehicle conditions can be deadly to operate on Highway 98, in the daytime, and especially at night, given how difficult visibility can be in some unlit areas and with certain conditions.
  88. Semi-Trucks – are constantly getting on and off of Highway 98. Experienced truckers know that they should coast as much as possible on Highway 98, given the numerous intersections and drivers getting on and off the road. However, there are many overly aggressive drivers that try to weave in and around trucks, cutting off these massive 18-wheelers. Inattentive truckers often miss the crucial opportunity to brake for stopped or slowed vehicles causing deadly rear-end accidents and pile-ups.
  89. Cutting Drivers Off – Perhaps, one of the most anger-inducing driving behaviors is merging into someone else’s lane without proper space, forcing them to break. Of course, some road conditions may force drivers to change lanes abruptly, but this should be avoided as much as possible.
  90. Scooters and Mopeds – Although scooters can top speeds as high as 60 mph, the vast majority of scooters traveling on Highway 98 hover around and under the speed limit, frustrating impatient drivers. Scooters and moped drivers should always wear helmets, have working lights, and carry no more than its intended number of passengers.
  91. Low-Speed Vehicles – LSVs should only be operated on roads with speed limits of 35 MPH or less. Walton County has cracked down on LSVs operated by underage drivers and on Highway 98 in recent years, given the number of crashes they’ve been involved in.
  92. Inconsistent Sidewalks – For pedestrians and cyclists who opt to use the sidewalk, Highway 98 can be frustrating because of the number of sidewalk segments that seem to disappear into thin air, leaving only the uneven grass or roadway to use.
  93. Lack of Bike Lanes – Short highway shoulders and few bike lanes make Highway 98 a hazardous roadway for cyclists to use.
  94. Ineffective use of the Zipper Method – Many drivers get incredibly frustrated when lane closures force vehicles to merge into one lane. Some drivers believe that drivers should get over as soon as they see a lane is shut down and become angry when cars “cut the line” to merge into their lane. Drivers should understand that the zipper method, explained in the video here is the fastest and safest way for drivers to merge.
  95. Stopping in the Middle of an Intersection – Drivers who can’t decide whether to run a yellow light or brake early enough to stop can end up smack dab in the middle of an intersection, either blocking traffic or attempting to reverse into a proper stopping place. Drivers should remain attentive so they can make the best decisions when approaching an intersection.
  96. High Beam Misuse – Very few sections of 98 are desolate enough for drivers to use their high beams, but they definitely should not be used when closely following another vehicle or when traffic comes the other way
  97. Flashers on in the Rain – Many are unaware that driving with your flashers on in the rain is against the law in Florida. It can confuse others on the road experiencing poor visibility because flashers can be mistaken for blinkers or brake lights.
  98. Excessive Lane Surfing – impatient, intoxicated, reckless, and racing drivers often jump from lane to lane, causing frustration for other drivers on the road and creating more opportunities for impact. While it’s important to be comfortable changing lanes and avoid being married to a single lane, drivers should not change lanes over and over and over.
Written by Vincent Michael Last Updated : June 29, 2023

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