Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

Florida home to seven most dangerous regions for pedestrians, study shows

TAMPA — Florida remains the nation's most deadly state for those who journey on foot, a new report has found.

The seven most dangerous metropolitan communities for pedestrians are all in the Sunshine State, according to the Dangerous by Design report released by Smart Growth America today.

That includes the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, which was ranked seventh with 821 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period through 2014.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers area topped the ranking, which is based on population size, number of people who commute on foot and number of fatalities.

Florida's bad record actually represents an improvement over an earlier version of the study, reflecting state and local government efforts to make streets more bike- and pedestrian- friendly. For example, the state's "Complete Streets" initiative requires that road planners focus not only on drivers but walkers and bicyclists, too.

"Many of the communities have gotten better over time despite the fact they're at the bottom of the ranking," said Emiko Atherton, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. "Communities in Florida need to keep up that good work."

The Tampa Bay metropolitan area's seventh-place ranking represents an improvement over its second-place finish in a study conducted two years ago.

Both Tampa and St. Petersburg have formally adopted plans to improve street safety, including better lighting, beacon crossings and separated bike lanes.

Examples include the addition of roundabouts and more crossings on N 34th Street in Tampa and sidewalk extensions in St. Petersburg known as "bulbouts" that slow traffic and shorten the distance to cross the road.

"We don't like getting on these bad lists, but we know what we're doing here and we think we're making progress and going in the right direction," said Jean Duncan, director of Tampa's Transportation and Stormwater Services Department.

It's not only Florida struggling with pedestrian safety. After several years when the overall number of deaths fell, fatalities nationwide have continued to rise since 2009, when roughly 4,100 pedestrians were killed on roads. By 2014, that number had risen to almost 4,900, an average of 13 fatalities every day.

Florida averaged just under 500 fatalities in a five-year period through 2013, but the number of deaths has exceeded 600 in the two years after that, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The increases may be a result of the recovering economy and cheaper gas, meaning more cars are on the road, Atherton said. Studies also suggest millennials and retiring baby boomers are walking more and using their cars less, she said.

Many fatalities are the result of decades of car-focused design that created fast-moving multilane highways with few safe crossing areas, the report states.

The most likely victims of that tend to be older, poorer and minorities, the study found.

Low-income families often don't have a car and are forced to walk. They're more likely to live in areas with poor street lighting and few sidewalks and crossing facilities, the report states.

Minorities accounted for 35 percent of the population in 2014 but made up 46 percent of pedestrian fatalities over the study period.

People 50 or older are also at higher risk of being struck and killed, the report states. That's in part because they may be more fragile and have slower reactions, said AARP Florida spokesman Dave Bruns.

"This is a sobering report by any measure," he said. "We have a big job to do in Florida, and people at state level in the transportation field recognized that several years and are starting to make progress, but it takes a long time."

Senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Comments
Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

ST. PETERSBURG — A man punched a 13-year-old girl inside a RaceTrac convenience store Saturday, knocking her unconscious as her parent pumped gas outside, Pinellas deputies reported.Kolbe Wayne Smith, 27, of St. Petersburg now faces charges of aggrav...
Updated: 6 hours ago
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapo...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

TAMPA — Police say a person is dead after a hit-and-run crash Sunday on the Selmon Expressway.Someone called authorities about 10 a.m., reporting a person on the entrance ramp to the highway near the intersection of W Cleveland Street and S Willow Av...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Teen killed in crash remembered as

Teen killed in crash remembered as "always smiling and laughing"

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Published: 04/22/18
New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old doctor died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.Kristin Carlin, of New Port Richey, was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 shortly before 6 a.m. when she failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Char...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Published: 04/21/18
Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Deputies arrested a man they said tackled a woman in February and removed her shorts before fleeing.Robert Mark Hembree Jr., 31, was arrested late Friday. He faces charges of sexual battery and petit theft.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Detectives seek man who a...
Published: 04/21/18
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Published: 04/21/18
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Published: 04/21/18
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA — A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Published: 04/21/18