Florida and Pedestrian Fatalities
Florida leads the nation in pedestrian fatalities. While there’s no simple explanation for why these tragedies occur, there are a number of factors that contribute to the problem. For instance, the groups of people most prone to being involved in a pedestrian accident are the elderly and small children. Florida has a larger population of elderly residents who tend to be less mobile and reactive than the average pedestrian. Across the United States, older individuals represent one the most vulnerable groups in terms of pedestrian deaths. Florida’s large tourist population possibly contributes to the high number of pedestrian fatalities as well. Studies show, however, that the issue is much more complicated than simply these concerns.
As of 2014, the pedestrian fatality rate of elderly Florida residents was just slightly higher than the national average. Moreover, research suggests that Florida local drivers, not tourists, are the ones responsible for striking local pedestrians. Many fatalities occur because of the risky behavior of the pedestrian. Pedestrians who do not use designated crosswalks or act carelessly are more likely to be involved in an accident. Distracted driving is also to blame for the increase in fatalities. Drivers distracted by their cell phones pose a risk to all pedestrians and drivers – even those exercising care and caution.
The Florida Department of Transportation is taking initiative to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities in Florida each year. Outreach programs to educate the public are being launched in cities with higher pedestrian fatality rates, such as Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and Palm Beach. The goal of these programs is to educate the public about pedestrian safety through flyer distribution, advertisements and engagement with law enforcement. Private organizations are also contributing to the solution by establishing programs to assist older drivers with safety checks on their vehicles.
In 2014, the Florida Department of Transportation adopted a “Complete Streets” policy which emphasizes safety for all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. Historically, Florida’s infrastructure was not built with pedestrians in mind. Accordingly, the Florida Department of Transportation is working with local governments, business groups and safety advocates in a statewide initiative to guide future road design with pedestrian safety in mind. It is expected to take years, however, for these initiatives take effect and reduce the overall number of pedestrian fatalities.
Drivers and pedestrians share the road so determining who has the right of way depends on the situation. Generally, when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, they have the right of way. Both drivers and pedestrians share equally in the responsibility of keeping pedestrians safe. Florida law requires pedestrians to act responsibly on shared roadways. Unless otherwise directed by a police officer, pedestrians and bicyclists are expected to obey traffic control signals. Pedestrians are required to use sidewalks. Where no sidewalk is available, pedestrians on highways must walk only on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway, in relation to the pedestrian’s directing of travel, facing the traffic approaching from the opposite direction.
Wittmer & Linehan PLLC cares about pedestrian safety in our growing community. If you or a loved one are involved in a pedestrian accident, our team of experienced Florida lawyers can assist you with better understanding your rights.