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Pedestrian hit while crossing road dies

A pedestrian died Sunday night after being struck by a car while crossing Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, authorities said Monday.

The 45-year-old man was not identified by Clearwater police pending notification of his family. It was the city's first traffic fatality of the year.

The man was heading south across Gulf-to-Bay, just west of U.S. 19, at about 9:30 p.m., said police spokesman Wayne Shelor. There is no marked pedestrian crossing in the area.

The man stepped into the curb-side lane and was struck by a westbound 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Christopher A. Benton, 33, of Tampa, Shelor said. Investigators think Benton was traveling at or below the speed limit.

The unidentified man was treated at the scene by paramedics and then was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center, Shelor said. He was pronounced dead less than two hours later, at 11:15 p.m.

Benton stopped his car and has not been charged. Westbound traffic on Gulf-to-Bay was cut to one lane for several hours. "Our investigation into the accident is continuing," Shelor said.

According to "Mean Streets 2004," a national report released in December, the Tampa Bay area was the second-most-deadly metro area in the nation. Only Orlando was worse.

To create the rankings, the nonprofit Surface Transportation Policy Project in Washington, D.C., combined pedestrian fatality rates with census findings on numbers of people who walk to work.

In 2003, 88 pedestrians died on the roads of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, the report said. Nationwide, 4,827 were killed.