Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Public safety

Tampa Bay ranks second-worst nationally in pedestrian deaths

TAMPA — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater make up the second-most-dangerous metro area in the nation for pedestrians, particularly if they are older adults, children or minorities, according to a national report released today.

The results come from the National Complete Streets Coalition, which ranked pedestrian safety within major metropolitan areas by assessing each region's "pedestrian death index'' — the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the number of people who walk to work in the region.

Throughout Florida, the numbers weren't pretty.

Four metropolitan areas in the state led the survey: Orlando-Kissimmee; Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater; Jacksonville; and Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. Memphis was the fifth-worst area for pedestrians.

"Historically, it's been a problem for us," said Billy Hattaway, a district secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation.

Across Florida, Hattaway said, the department has located the "hot spots." Next, it will conduct road safety audits and develop a strategy to improve specific issues in each region, such as increasing lighting at certain intersections or prohibiting dangerous right turns.

In a conference call Monday, Hattaway and several national officials discussed the report, and the need for major changes to reduce fatalities.

From 2003 through 2012, about 47,000 pedestrians in the United States died while walking along streets, according to the report.

"That's 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters the last 10 years," said Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Said Nancy LeaMond, an executive vice president with AARP: "Simply put, the streets in our communities are not working for older Americans."

Millar said 68 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on roads funded in some part by the federal government and designed in accordance with government guidelines.

This is crucial, because the report corresponds with a piece of legislation floating through Congress that would make states set targets for reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Millar said the coalition's idea is to present a plan that would create measurable safety goals for walkers and bikers. Some of these solutions include "reducing the number of travel lanes and installing median islands," according to the report.

"These deaths are preventable," Millar concluded. "This is about making smarter choices."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Zack Peterson can be reached at (813) 226-3446 or [email protected]

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