City leaders and safety advocates in Fort Lauderdale have a goal: Zero traffic deaths.
No one dying on bicycles. No one killed in car accidents. No one fatally struck while crossing the street.
It’s a lofty one, considering Fort Lauderdale has a horrible track record when it comes to traffic safety. In the last five years, there have been nearly 41,000 auto accidents, 134 deaths and 1,450 injuries just of bicyclists and pedestrians, according to state and federal data.
Vision Zero Fort Lauderdale is part of a larger, global effort to eliminate traffic accidents, which kills 30,000 people every year just in the U.S. The project started in Sweden and has caught on in cities like New York, San Francisco and Portland. Fort Lauderdale is the first city in the Southeastern region of the country to initiate the effort. Officials say it’s a priority we can’t ignore, considering how dangerous our streets have become.
Just in 2012, the rate of traffic deaths in the city was 17 per 100,000 population. That’s fifth in the nation. In terms of pedestrian deaths, the rate is 5.86 per 100,000. That’s No. 2 in the country, just behind Augusta, GA.
When residents in the city were polled about their greatest transportation concerns, they answered:
- Management of traffic flow and congestion
- Safety of biking
- Availability of biking paths and amenities
- Safety of walking
- Condition of sidewalks
- Availability of sidewalks
Vision Zero aims to make streets safer by incorporating the interests of all road users – not just those traveling by motor vehicle. That means engineering wider streets, installing bike lanes, lowering speed limits and creating more crosswalks.
The effort is guided by the following basic founding principles:
- There is no acceptable number of deaths or injuries on the streets.
- Traffic-related deaths and injuries aren’t “accidents,” but rather preventable crashes.
- The public has the right to expect safer streets and a responsibility to work together to make that a reality.
A number of organizations are partnering on the effort, including the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization , Broward County, the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Authority, the local business community, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Public Works, Parks & Recreation, the Florida Department of Transportation, District 4 and a number of local non-profit agencies.
One of the first steps in changing the status quo is to understand why it happens. Researchers for the project found that:
- 44 percent of traffic deaths in Fort Lauderdale occur on city streets;
- 35 percent occur on roads maintained by FDOT;
- 8 percent occur on federal highways and roads;
- 3 percent occur on county roads;
- 10 percent occur on other roads, including private property.
The majority of fatal accidents (65 percent) occur during the day and 83 percent happen in clear weather and 89 percent on dry roads. That tells us the roads themselves are a significant problem that must be addressed.
Nearly a quarter of all deadly crashes in Fort Lauderdale involve alcohol.
Bicyclists and pedestrians are especially vulnerable to injury and death. While 1 in 386 car accidents results in a fatality, the same is true of 1 in 71 bicycle accidents and 1 in 18 pedestrian accidents.
A 2014 report called, “Dangerous by Design,” part of the National Complete Streets Coalition, indicated the most dangerous metro areas in the nation for pedestrians were in Florida, with Fort Lauderdale/ Miami ranking No. 4, logging 1,539 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012. The total number of traffic deaths during that time was 6,690.
On average, there are 20 deaths every year within city limits, including 2 bicycle deaths and 9 pedestrian deaths.
The Vision Zero plan will involve engineering safe and convenient environments to walk, bike and drive through. It will involve education of various populations, encouragement through special events, donation of resources and public outreach, enforcement of traffic laws by police and periodic evaluation of these successes.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Vision Zero: Safer Streets for Fort Lauderdale, January 2016, City of Fort Lauderdale
More Blog Entries:
Smizer v. Drey – When to Pursue Punitive Damages in Crash Case, Jan. 11, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer Blog