The newest report from SmartGrowth Design, Dangerous by Design 2016, details Florida’s abysmal rates of pedestrian deaths, relative to the number of people who walk to work. This year, researchers combed through data of 104 cities across the countries. Eight of the nation’s top 10 most dangerous cities are in Florida, as is No. 11. While the national average rate is 52.4, the top metro area in Florida – the Cape Coral/ Fort Myers region – had a rate of 283.1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Standford metro region ranked at No. 3 with a rate of 235.2.
What that means is when it comes to pedestrian deaths in Orlando, our ranking is 350 percent higher than the country’s average.
There are a lot of theories being floated for why this is. The first, as opined by the bicycle and pedestrian safety program manager at the Florida Department of Transportation’s Traffic Safety Office is that we have a higher percentage of older residents. We know that people who are older have slower reaction times and are also more vulnerable to serious injury when they are in a pedestrian accident. This aligns with the findings of SmartGrowth Design, which revealed the older population to be one that was particularly vulnerable.
The other possible factor being cited is that we have a lot of tourists every year, and many of them imbibe. There is nothing wrong with that, except when those individuals venture out behind the wheel of a vehicle or on foot on streets unfamiliar. Certainly, this is very true in Orlando, a region that draws tens of millions of international visitors annually.
But neither of these really tell the full story. The reality is that most pedestrians being struck and killed, according to Bike/Walk Central Florida, are locals. The average age of pedestrians being struck and killed is 50.
And then of course, there is the ongoing national problem of distracted driving, which is believed to be behind a growing number of car accident deaths around the U.S., including Florida.
Florida has remained No. 1 on the Dangerous by Design list since 2011, the first year the report was released. Since that time, the state DOT has launched a number of initiatives to help address the problem. For example, in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Palm Beach and Jacksonville, authorities have launched education campaigns to spread information about dangerous driving and walking behaviors. This information has been distributed in multiple languages, on radio and television ads and in fliers. Aging drivers are being offered free vehicle checks to make sure their headlights are clean and their side mirrors are properly adjusted.
Other efforts have involved Complete Streets initiatives, which aim to emphasize safety for all road users, not just those in cars and trucks. That means focusing on creating bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths, reducing speed limits and narrowing streets.
Unfortunately, those efforts haven’t thus far resulted in any abrupt turn-around in the rise of these deaths in Florida. Some say it could be years before we begin to see definite improvement and a drop in car accident deaths. In the meantime, city and state officials need to do more to crack down on drivers who are careless and reckless and put the lives and safety of others in jeopardy.
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Why Does Florida Have America’s Most Lethal Roads? Jan. 13, 2017, By Laura Bliss, CityLab
More Blog Entries:
Report: States Slow Rush to Restrict Elder Driver’s Licenses, Jan. 17, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog