Central Florida Still Dead Last for Pedestrian Deaths

Central Florida Still Dead Last for Pedestrian Deaths

In past posts, I've mentioned the dismal safety record of the area for bicyclists and pedestrians. Those posts have usually discussed statistics which are generated one year at a time.

Unfortunately, things don't look any better when multiple years are included in the data. A recent study titled Dangerous By Design 2014 (published by by the National Complete Streets Coalition) shows that for the years 2003-2012, Central Florida was the worst place in the entire country for pedestrian deaths. The only bright spot for the Tampa Bay area is that one place - Orlando - was worse.

Specifically, the Orlando area had a pedestrian death rate of 2.75 per 100,000 people during the 10-year period analyzed. Tampa actually had a higher death rate of 2.97 per 100,000. The study author's found, however, that Orlando was actually more dangerous because more people walk in Tampa. They created a "Danger Index" based on actual pedestrian activity where Orlando rated 244 and Tampa rated 190.

There is more bad news from the Dangerous By Design study. Jacksonville was third, and Miami was fourth, in level of pedestrian danger. Florida therefore has the dubious distinction of having four of the top five most dangerous metro areas for pedestrian deaths. Memphis, Tennessee was fifth.

All of the 10 worst metropolitan areas were in the southern United States. As the authors note, southern metro areas "grew in the post-war period, mostly through rapid spread of low-density neighborhoods that rely on wider streets with higher speeds to connect homes, shops, and schools - roads that tend to be more dangerous for people walking." Suburbia, in other words, is not conducive to pedestrian safety.

As found in previous studies, poor and vulnerable demographic groups were at greatest risk. People over age 75 had a very high relative death risk. The risk was elevated, though less so, for people over 65. African Americans, Hispanics, and Native American populations also had considerably higher death rates than the average national population.

There was a grim local reminder about pedestrian danger just this week. On May 20, Doug Carey, 70, was killed in Clearwater while acting as a crossing guard. Carey, a retired police officer, was struck at high speed by a car which apparently ran a red light on Gulf to Bay Boulevard. The car struck another car in the intersection, then went out of control and hit Carey. The driver of the speeding car fled the scene and was later arrested.

Two girls in the car which hit Carey were also injured. One did not have her seat belt on, and she was thrown from the car into the street. She was taken to Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg with serious injuries.

Given this recent report and tragedies like the one involving Mr. Carey, we hope Florida lawmakers and planners will step up their efforts to provide streets which are safer for walkers and bicyclists. We should not be content to remain as a national embarrassment in pedestrian safety.

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