New study ranks Tampa Bay second worst in nation for pedestrian deaths
A 70-year old retired police officer was killed Tuesday after being struck by a vehicle in Clearwater Tuesday morning. Doug Carey was working as a crossing guard at the intersection of Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road. Two toddlers who were passengers in a car that ran a red light were also injured.
A new pedestrian safety study lists the Tampa Bay area as the second most dangerous place to walk in the country. The National Complete Streets Coalition released its study Tuesday. During a phone conference, the coalition’s director Roger Millar said pedestrian accidents are increasing while other traffic incidents are declining.
“More than 47,000 people nationwide died while walking on our streets. That’s 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters during the same ten years, yet pedestrian deaths don’t receive a corresponding level of urgency.”
And by that, Millar means money.
“Less than on half of 1% of federal safety funds have been spent to prevent further deaths.”
The reason supporters of the coalition think walking can be perilous is where the study got its name – Dangerous by Design.
“They’ve been engineered and operated for speeding traffic with little or no provision the safety of people walking or biking or using public transit.”
The coalition includes the AARP. For good reason. Nancy LeaMond is the executive vice president for the state and national group. She says one out of every five pedestrian fatalities involves a senior. That makes them the largest group affected by pedestrian deaths. That’s why the AARP is pushing the Safe Streets Act.
“This bi-partisan legislation would require all states and local planning organizations to adopt Safe Streets policies for federally funded projects within two years.”
If passed, the legislation wouldn’t require funding.
“The Safe Streets Act won’t fix all of our roadway safety problems over night, but overtime our streets will be designed to be safer and more people will be able to cross the street without crossing their fingers first.”
And she says the gradual improvements would benefit everyone – not just the elderly.
“A curb cut design for a wheelchair user also benefits a parent pushing a baby stroller. A crosswalk safe for a senior is a crosswalk safe for a child. A community that’s friendly for an 80-year old can be friendly for an 8-year old and everyone else in between.”
The conversation is resounding in Tampa where roads like Busch Boulevard and Hillsborough Avenue have claimed the lives of children walking to school. Just yesterday a middle school student was injured crossing Busch Boulevard. Billy Hattaway with the Florida Department of Transportation says the most dangerous places like Tampa will get the most attention.
“It may be, for example, that at an intersection we’ll have no right turn on red to prohibit cars from taking right turns during the cycle that pedestrians are crossing. We’re looking at increasing lighting at our intersections across the entire state, starting first with those intersections where we have high nighttime pedestrian crashes.”
The study also found there were 67,000 additional pedestrian accidents where there were injuries, but no deaths. Those numbers are based on national data from the Department of Transportation from 2003-2012.