When most people think of Florida, they likely think of our pristine beaches, gorgeous weather, or incredible amusement parks. What they may not realize is that here in the Sunshine State, we have a significant problem: dangerous roadways. Our streets and highways are particularly hazardous for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Florida is the top state in the nation for bicycle fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 783 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2017 in the United States. 125 of those — 16% — were killed in Florida.
Yet it isn’t just bicyclists who are in danger in Florida. According to a 2019 report titled “Dangerous by Design,” 9 out of the top 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians (and 10 out of the top 20) in the United States are located in Florida. This includes the greater Miami area, where there were 1,549 pedestrian deaths between 2008 and 2017, for an average annual pedestrian fatality rate of 2.61 per 100,000 people.
These numbers are scary. As drivers, there IS something that we can do about it. Learning to share the roadway with bicyclists and pedestrians can help us reduce the number of bike accidents and pedestrian crashes — and keep everyone safe.
What Drivers Can Do to Share the Road Safely with Bicyclists
In Florida, bicycles are legally defined as vehicles. They have all of the rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles on public roads, other than expressways. However, there are specific rules that motorists must follow when interacting with bicyclists on the road.
Drivers are required by law to give bicyclists a minimum clearance of 3 feet when they are driving alongside of them or passing them. Drivers should also yield to any bicyclists in the bike lane when turning, and make any turns behind bikers — not in front of them. Doing so can reduce the risk of accidents.
High beams can blind drivers — and bicyclists as well. If you see a biker approaching, avoid using your high beam headlights to decrease the potential for a crash. You should also avoid honking your horn at bicyclists, which could startle them and cause them to swerve into traffic.
There are many others ways that you can avoid collisions with bicycles, including:
- Reducing your speed when passing bicycles, especially when the road is narrow;
- Stay alert and avoid distractions when driving;
- Give bicyclists extra passing room in bad weather;
- Check mirrors and blind spots for bicyclists before entering or leaving a lane of traffic;
- Be extra careful in neighborhoods where children may be on bicycles, as they tend to be more unpredictable and may come out from driveways or off of sidewalks; and
- Check for bicyclists before opening your car door.
While many bike accidents are caused at least in part by the actions of the bicyclists, by actively engaging in safe practices, drivers can help to reduce the incidence of these types of crashes. Here in Miami-Dade County, there were 817 bike crashes in 2018, including 18 fatalities. By working to share the road safely with bicyclists, we can reduce these numbers significantly.
How You Can Avoid Collisions with Pedestrians
In Florida, both pedestrians and motorists have certain obligations under the law. For pedestrians, this includes following traffic control devices and signs, using sidewalks and crosswalks when available, and never stepping into the path of oncoming vehicles. Drivers must follow traffic signals and signs, yield to pedestrians already crossing the road, never pass vehicles waiting for pedestrians, and exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians and bicyclists.
These laws provide general guidelines for how motorists should behave when driving. They also specify who has right of way in intersections. However, it is important for drivers to take extra steps to protect pedestrians, as a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian will likely end with serious or even fatal injuries for the pedestrian.
According to AAA, drivers can take several steps to reduce the risk of striking a pedestrian while driving:
- Look out for pedestrians at all times;
- Follow posted speed limits, particularly in areas where pedestrians may appear suddenly (school zones and neighborhood streets);
- Be more cautious when visibility is poor due to bad weather or low light — use your lights and signal properly;
- Watch for pedestrians when pulling into and out of driveways;
- Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk;
- Reduce your speed and prepare to stop when approaching a crosswalk;
- When stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room so other drivers can see the pedestrians;
- Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk; and
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Following these safety tips can help to avoid many pedestrian accidents that occur each year in Florida, including the 1,569 that occurred in Miami-Dade County in 2018. These numbers included 96 pedestrian fatalities — a statistic that we can work to change by following safe driving practices.
Work with a Personal Injury Attorney in Miami
Bike accidents and pedestrian crashes happen far too often in Florida, making our state number one in the country for fatalities in both types of collisions. This is unacceptable — and a reality that we deal with too often as experienced Miami personal injury lawyers. We believe that there is a better solution: helping everyone learn to share the road safely.
For over two decades, the law firm of Kaire & Heffernan has represented victims of bike accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury cases. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney in Miami, contact our office today at 305-372-0123, or reach out online.