A new report indicates walking may be hazardous for your health – in Florida, anyway.
Florida has long ranked among the most perilous places for people to move in non-motorized vehicles, and pedestrian accidents in Fort Lauderdale have been a major problem for residents and tourists alike. Now, the newest Dangerous by Design report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition found 8 of the 10 deadliest metro areas for pedestrians were right here in the Sunshine State. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area ranked No. 14. The other Florida locations where hazards were even higher were:
- No. 1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
- No. 2. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
- No. 3. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville
- No. 4. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton
- No. 5. Lakeland-Winter Haven
- No. 6. Jacksonville
- No. 8. Cape Coral-Fort Myers
- No. 8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
Bakersfield, CA and Jackson, MS rounded out the top 10.
Between 2008 and 2017, U.S. pedestrian deaths spiked by nearly 36 percent. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives in pedestrian accidents during that decade, which works out to more than 13-a-day, noted The Miami Herald. Put a different way: That’s the equivalent of a large jet going down once a month. If we had 5,000 people dying every single year in plane crashes, air travel would come to an immediate halt and we’d be looking into swift and decisive policy changes. Yet the problem is getting worse.
As our Fort Lauderdale pedestrian accident attorneys know, pedestrian deaths have climbed every single year since 2009, unlike overall traffic deaths, which have fallen by 6 percent.
Over the course of that decade in Florida, more than 5,330 people were killed. That means we have 2.74 pedestrian fatalities for every 100,000 people here, which works out to a pedestrian-danger index of 182. In Texas, the state with the second-highest PDI, it’s slightly less than 112.
Just in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region, there were nearly 1,550 pedestrians struck and killed, for a PDI of 153.5.
Many of those killed are disproportionately elderly and minorities who live in poor communities.
Why Does Florida Have So Many Pedestrian Deaths?
The problem, say traffic policy experts, isn’t that people are walking more. We are driving slightly more, but that still doesn’t account for the out-sized risk. The issue, according to report authors, is that Florida was built for speed. Streets were designed solely with the purpose of facilitating fast-moving motor vehicle traffic, and that hasn’t changed since the WWII era. We are continuing to design streets that are unsafe for everyone – including motorists.
Sprawling growth patterns – particularly in the South – have led to roads that are wider, blocks that are longer, and prioritization of motor vehicle traffic over the safe movement of those on foot, bicycle, e-scooters or mass transit.
Another problem is the design of our motor vehicles. Large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks have become increasingly popular, and yet are associated with a pedestrian fatality rate that is three times higher compared to those collisions involving a smaller sedan.
Some call for decreasing dependency on motor vehicles as well as a shift to road planning that incorporates both the needs and safety of all users. That means safer intersections (more roundabouts), more sidewalks, more bicycle lanes and narrower vehicle lanes that encourage slower motor vehicle traffic.