Walking is one of the most recommended forms of exercise. Florida with its beautiful warm weather and sunshine might make you think that it would be the perfect place for walking however it’s one of the deadliest cities for people on foot. Florida is home to nine of the twenty deadliest cities for pedestrians according to the 2019 “Dangerous By Design” report from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. Orlando is the number one least safe city for pedestrians and the Miami, Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach metropolitan area isn’t far behind at no. 14.
What Does the Data Say About Florida Pedestrian Fatalities?
Disturbing data shows a 35.7% increase in the number of annual pedestrian deaths in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017. During that ten (10) year period, nearly 50,000 pedestrians died, that’s averaging one pedestrian death nearly every two hours.
In contrast, traffic fatalities for motor vehicle accidents has decreased 6.1% between 2008 and 2017. In the ten (10) year span there were 5,433 pedestrian deaths in Florida. That’s an annual average of 2.73 pedestrian deaths per hundred thousand people. This is significantly higher than the National figure of 1.5 average annual deaths per hundred thousand people.
Orlando is reported to have had 656 pedestrian deaths during that ten (10) year period. The report creates a pedestrian danger index (PDI) and it calculates Florida’s PDI at 182. This figure is staggering when compared to the National average which is 55.3 (PDI) and other large states like Texas, (111.9) or California (68.2). The safest state for pedestrians is Vermont which comes with a PDI or 13.8.
Why There Are So Many Pedestrian Fatalities in Florida
According to the authors, the reason this is happening is that our streets were designed for moving vehicles and haven’t changed over the years. The authors indicate that Federal and State transportation policies, blueprints and funding are stuck in the age of the automobile with large growth patterns, which led to wider roads that prioritized a high speed road for motor vehicles over the safety of pedestrians, bikes or other mass transit.
These pedestrian deaths are disproportionately higher for the elderly according to the data.
How Florida’s Government Can Protect Cyclists and Pedestrians
So as cities seek to reduce Americans dependency on cars, what needs to change to protect the pedestrians and cyclists? Organizations like, Smart Growth America, and the Complete Streets Coalition advocate for the design of more livable developments and want to change the way roads are planned to make them more accommodating to all users and not only vehicles.
The Federal Highway Administration has eliminated some outdated car friendly regulations since 2016 which affords states and cities the ability to re-design streets with Federal funding. The goal is to design safer streets, slower traffic, better intersections, sidewalks and bike lanes. The Report urges for stronger regulations and suggests that the State Departments like FDOT set goals and targets to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The Report also suggests that these pedestrian fatalities stop being referred to as “unavoidable accidents” and should in fact be referred to as accidents or crashes. It’s hopeful with these reports and recommendations for changes and guidelines that the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, particularly in the State of Florida, will decrease over the next decade as opposed to the rapid increase we have seen in the past decade.
In the meantime, be careful where you step and if you’re going to walk for exercise, it may be prudent to find parks, beaches and other areas in Florida which don’t have any vehicular traffic around. Stay Safe!
David R. Heffernan