United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, has made it his mission to increase the safety of all drivers on the road. Through initiatives such as bringing awareness to the dangers of distracted driving, especially reading, writing or sending text messages, safety gains have continued for drivers and passengers. However, for pedestrians, increased safety hasn’t comes as quickly.
According to the non-profit group, Transportation for America, efforts to reduce pedestrian fatalities have lagged behind efforts to reduce car accident deaths. From 2000 to 2009 motor vehicle accident fatalities were reduced by 27 percent, while pedestrian fatalities were reduced by only 14 percent.
According to the Traffic Safety Facts report put out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrian accident fatalities accounted for 12 percent of all motor vehicle accident deaths nationwide in 2009. Further, the NHTSA report states that over 4,000 pedestrians were killed and about 59,000 more were injured in the United States in 2009. These numbers, according to a Consumer Reports article, added up to an estimated 47,700 pedestrian fatalities nationwide from 2000 to 2009.
Florida’s Retirees in Danger
Florida’s retiree population may be at greater risk. According the NHTSA report, older adults (age 65+) throughout the United States accounted for 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities and eight percent of pedestrian injuries in 2009. These numbers resulted in older adults having the highest fatality rate among pedestrians.
The report from Transportation for America also reinforces what many Floridians already know: Florida’s roads are very dangerous for pedestrians.
Along with providing pedestrian accident numbers, the Transportation for America report lists the metro areas where pedestrians are at most risk of being killed. According to the report, four of the top ten most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians are located in Florida; and, sadly, they are the four most dangerous areas in the country. The report states that Orlando/Kissimmee is the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians, followed by Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Jacksonville, and, rounding out the top four most dangerous metro areas in the country, Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano.
According to Consumer Reports NHTSA’s priority plan through 2013 includes a few program ideas aimed at increasing pedestrian safety. Programs that the NHTSA is considering include:
- New regulations for bumper and hood areas of vehicles aimed at reducing the number of fatalities and injuries that occur in car-pedestrian accidents
- Pedestrian detecting sensors that reduce the speed of vehicles when pedestrians are detected
- Adding sound to quiet hybrid and electric vehicles to alert pedestrians of their presence
Consumer Reports writes that Transportation for America has also developed ideas to keep pedestrians safe:
- Earmarking a “fair share” of transportation monies to improve infrastructure
- Make roads safer for everyone, including drivers and pedestrians
- Use more federal monies for walking and biking facilities or paths
Florida Crosswalk Law
While there are many good ideas for improving pedestrian safety, unless they are actually implemented they remain good intentions. However, in 2008, the state of Florida took a much needed first step toward improving pedestrian safety. In May of that year, then-governor Crist signed into law the requirement that drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Specifically, the law states that drivers “shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk” and is crossing on the drivers’ half of the roadway or is close enough to drivers’ “half of the roadway as to be in danger”.
Take Control of Your Safety
Even if the many proposed safety initiatives are implemented and added to existing laws protecting the safety of pedestrians, drivers and pedestrians still need to take it upon themselves to be safety conscious. For instance, drivers need to be aware of pedestrians and situations where pedestrians may be present such as around schools. A Consumer Reports article suggests that, drivers should take proactive safety steps like reducing their speed and limiting their distractions; and, pedestrians should “assume that all drivers do not see them”.
Further, the NHTSA offers the following safety reminders:
- Drivers should yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, whether the pedestrians are in crosswalks or not
- Pedestrians should always look left, right and then left again before crossing the street
- If a pedestrian must walk in the street, they should walk facing traffic
- Pedestrians should wear bright-colored and/or reflective clothing when walking at night
If you have been injured by an inattentive driver while crossing a Florida street, you may be able to receive compensation from the driver for your medical bills, and pain and suffering. Speak with an attorney with knowledge of Florida’s personal injury laws to find out your legal rights and options for seeking compensation for your injuries.