Florida consistently leads the nation in pedestrian fatalities. In 2017 alone, of 3,174 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, more than 600 were pedestrians.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the occurrence of pedestrian deaths has been rising nationwide and in 2016, were at their highest level since 1990. Unfortunately, Florida cities rank near the top of the most dangerous. A research study called “Dangerous by Design” done annually since 2011 by Smart Growth America, ranks eight of Florida’s metropolitan areas in the top ten for fatalities.
What’s happening in Florida?
So what’s happening in Florida and why do we continue to lead with these gruesome statistics? The answers aren’t that straightforward and the perspectives vary widely. There’s an assumption by Florida locals that the high number of deaths is attributed to the state’s higher population of elderly or the high number of tourists, but according to research done by City Lab, that’s just not the case. The average age of the victims is actually closer to 50 and it’s mostly their own unsafe behaviors, like crossing in the middle of the street that are causing the accidents. City Lab also found that those driving, as well as those getting hit, are local.
Other contributing factors to the rise in accidents include:
- Distracted driving, as well as distracted walking. The age of the smartphone brings with it much diversion. Walking while texting can distract you from your task at hand just like driving and texting can, and the recent increase in pedestrian deaths might speak to that.
- A mix of ethnicities in our population, which brings various languages, interpretations and pedestrian behaviors where the culture and expectation of safety might be different.
- Accidents occur more commonly at night, so efforts to increase street markings and signage are underway.
- Street design could also be to blame, as the infrastructure to keep pedestrians safe is lacking. According to City Lab, recent road design has been focused more on ease for vehicles, as opposed to pedestrian safety. In 2014, the Florida Department of Transportation adopted a policy called “Complete Streets” to focus on safety for all road users-pedestrians and cyclists included. Some Florida cities with higher fatality rates have adapted programs like “Best Foot Forward” to focus on education, road engineering and enhanced enforcement.
Stay safe while walking
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Information Center offers tips on the best ways to stay safe while out for a walk. These may be obvious, but with the high number of fatalities, they’re good reminders:
- Be seen-wear bright clothing and reflective materials.
- Always walk on the sidewalk.
- Cross only at designated, marked crosswalks.
- Don’t assume drivers will see you or will stop. Make eye contact with the driver and look across all lanes you must cross.
- Don’t rely on signals alone and look both ways before crossing.
- Be mindful of surrounding noise like engine noise or back up beeps and don’t wear headphones.
- Carry a flashlight at night.
Despite state efforts, pedestrian fatalities are growing, and not just in Florida. The proposed changes, like road redesign, will take time, effort and commitment. If you’re out enjoying our sunshine, proceed with caution.