A recent newspaper headline asked the question: Are Florida’s Roads Dangerous by Design?
Tampa and other Florida cities are particularly dangerous for traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Florida has the highest rate of fatal pedestrians accidents in the nation. According to a news report, Florida transportation planners presented information to a legislative committee recently indicating Florida had 2.6 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people —nearly double the national average of 1.46 deaths per 100,000.
A 2014 study by Transportation for America study ranked the 10 most dangerous urban areas for pedestrians in the U.S., and the top four spots were all in Florida: Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale.
Florida has wide streets and a sizable population of seniors who may need more time to cross the streets. Many pedestrian accidents occur because motorists are speeding, are driving impaired or are simply not alert for people on foot.
A St. Petersburg chef was struck and killed on April 11 by a drunk driver as he was walking home, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Two pedestrians, Jerome Davis, a chef at The Kitchen St. Pete and Brian Lee LaFrance were crossing 2nd Street in the crosswalk of Central Avenue with a crossing signal, when a driver in a Dodge Charger ran a red light and struck the two men. There is an indication the driver was trying to flee from police. LaFrance was sideswiped and injured, and Davis was thrown onto the hood and over the car. Police eventually arrested the driver and charged him with vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash and DUI bodily injury.
Last month, a 66-year-old retired hospital executive who was vacationing in Tampa with his wife, was fatally injured when a car veered off the road onto a sidewalk, struck two utility poles, then struck three people as they were walking along a sidewalk returning to their hotel near the Harbour Island bridge, according to the Tampa Tribune. The man’s wife and another woman who lived in Tampa suffered injuries. Police said the 68-year-old driver who caused the accident apparently had a medical episode, causing the accident.
Priyanka Alluri, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Florida International University Lehman Center for Transportation Research, told a committee of legislators that there are a number of factors that contribute to poor pedestrian safety, including the large amount of tourists and immigrants who may not be aware of traffic safety laws, as well as the sizable elderly population. However, the biggest problem could be the roads themselves, she said.
Many roads in Florida are very wide, Alluri said. That is good for drivers, but makes it more difficult for pedestrians to cross safely.
According to the report, the majority of pedestrian deaths can be attributed to lack of sidewalks, drivers not yielding, people not using crosswalks, or bad visibility. The latter in particular is a big issue, as most fatalities happened at night on unlit roads.
Alluri said that there are four main areas that need to be addressed: better education, enforcement, engineering, and medical services.
Improved engineering could mean better sidewalks and lighting as well as things like flashing beacons, which are LED lights activated by pedestrians to warn drivers that they are crossing a street.
Another tool that could help is a camera system that estimates the age of a pedestrian. The timing of the light could then be adjusted to give, for example, an older person more time to cross.
Pedestrians who are injured by motorists who disregard safety have a legal right to seek full compensation for their medical bills and other losses. The family of people killed in pedestrian accidents may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. If you have been hit by a car while walking or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident in the Tampa area, contact a Tampa pedestrian accident lawyer to understand your legal rights. Then you can make an informed decision with your family’s future in mind.