It was never more dangerous to cross the road in Hillsborough County than in 2015. In fact, 51 pedestrians crossing the street lost their lives last year.crosswalk4

According to the latest report from the Tampa Tribune, that is an astonishing 50 percent increase just from 2014, when there were 34 pedestrians killed in the county. Further, it’s the most pedestrian deaths that have ever been recorded since Florida started keeping count in 1998.

Traffic safety officials are hoping this is not a sign of things to come in 2016, but it’s tough to say whether we’ll see that trend continue.

Florida has long been known as a dangerous place for people walking or on bicycles. A report released February of last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that of 4,735 pedestrians who died in 2013 nationally, 501 of them died in Florida. That accounted for more than 20 percent of our total traffic fatalities, or 1 in every 5 traffic deaths.

The only state that had more pedestrian deaths that year was California, with 701 deaths. But remember: California is more than twice the size of Florida in terms of population. So when you take that into account, Florida’s pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 was 2.56, compared to California’s 1.83.

Our Miami pedestrian accident lawyers understand just recently in Miami Beach, another life was lost on Alton Road, near 15th Street. It happened sometime between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. The 68-year-old woman was transported to nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she died of her injuries.

Miami has been ranked the fourth-most dangerous city in America for cyclists. Between 2003 and 2012, some 1,539 people were killed while walking along or in the streets of South Florida.

More recently, Hillsborough County – and specifically – the Tampa metropolitan area, which includes St. Petersburg and Cleawater, was ranked 2nd in the nation (behind Orlando) as the “most dangerous place to walk” by Smart Growth America.

There have been a number of efforts undertaken to reduce the risk to pedestrians. These include the installation of more crosswalks in areas that are high traffic, and also public safety awareness campaigns in local schools, striving to educate children about how best to behave around traffic. Another educational effort is underway to educate the homeless population, which has a disproportionate number of victims.

But despite this, the number of victims hasn’t dropped. Officials say there may be a year or two where the numbers decline slightly, but not in any meaningful way. This area is at the top of the country for deaths of both walkers and cyclists.

Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione says the city has to start investing more money in better traffic engineering and also direct more law enforcement resources toward the problem – especially at busy roads like Fowler Avenue and Busch Boulevard. In those locations, she said, it’s easy for motorists to speed down those roads with no turns and no intersections for many miles. They were originally industrial areas, but that has changed over time. That means the roads need to change too. Pedestrians trying to cross face significant hazards, not only because of the vehicle speed but due to the lack of crosswalks.

Montelione has proposed adoption of the Vision Zero initiative, which started in Sweden in the late 1990s and has been adopted by cities like New York, Portland and Boston. It envisions a city with zero traffic deaths – including those killed while walking or riding a bicycle. It may seem a lofty goal, but given the enormous price we pay for these losses, it’s a worthy one.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Hillsborough roads were deadliest ever for pedestrians in 2015, Jan. 17, 2016, By Mark Wolfenbarger, Tampa Tribune

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