BFF Helps Washington Shores Kids Prepare to Head Back to Class

Is June too early to start prepping for Back to School? Families in Washington Shores say absolutely not!

Best Foot Forward joined more than 100 kids and families at Commissioner Samuel Ings’ “Washington Shores Back to School Jump Start to Wellness Day” on June 29. The event took place at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center at Washington Shore Park. Orange County students won’t be going back to class for more than a month, but they now have a head start to ensure the transition from summer to school is a breeze.

Kids were given backpacks, school supplies, free health physicals and of course, properly fitted bike helmets to help jumpstart their back to school preparation. BFF and several other community vendors set up tables at the event to help educate the community about health and safety. Concerns about speeding and distracted driving were a hot topic among neighbors, but some said that the addition of rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB) at crosswalks in their area has made them feel safer when crossing the street.

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Community members also had the chance to have vendor tables sign off on a card which they could complete and trade in for a free bagged lunch. Getting involved in your community and learning about ped/bike safety in exchange for free food? Not a bad deal!

BFF was joined at the event by Helmets Save Lives volunteers Joshua Barzey and Rossemary Frick. Helmets Save Lives is a new, nonprofit organization that promotes the use of bicycle helmets and educates children on general bike safety. With their help, more than 40 kids received properly fitted bike helmets. We love to see more advocacy for ped/bike safety in Central Florida – thank you for coming!

UPDATE: Texting and Driving Now A Primary Offense in Florida

UPDATE 7/1: The law is now in affect

Starting today, law enforcement can pull you over if they catch you texting while driving.

UPDATE 4/17: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2019.
The provision regarding work zones and school zones will go into a “warning” phase on Oct. 1, 2019, with tickets starting to be issued on Jan. 1, 2020.

Read how Orange County Sheriff John Mina plans to start enforcing the law.

Original post from 4/30/19

This week Florida lawmakers took a big step toward making our roads safer from distracted drivers. On Monday, the State House voted 108-7 in favor of a bill that makes texting and driving a primary offense. That bill now sits on Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk awaiting a signature.

Why this is important:

Right now, law enforcement can’t pull you over for texting and driving. They can only cite you for texting and driving if they pull you over for some other “primary” offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign. That would change under the new law, which would make texting while driving a primary offense, giving officers the right to pull you over and give you a ticket. If signed by the governor, it would take effect July 1.
Part of the law will include a grace period in which police will issue warnings through the end of the year while the state conducts an education campaign.

What the law says:

  • Texting is defined as: “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communication device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, emailing and instant messaging.”
  • A first violation will cost you $30 plus court costs, a total of up to $108. A second violation within 5 years is a $60 fine plus court costs.
  • If you’re in a school zone or a work zone where workers are present: you must operate your phone in a hands-free mode.
  • Officers are required to tell you about your constitutional right not to have your phone searched—meaning you don’t have to give the officer your phone. However, billing records and other documents could be used in certain cases in court.
  • Officers are required to record the race/ethnicity of every person stopped and ticketed for texting and driving.
  • Link to full text

There are exceptions:

  • Emergency responders performing official duties
  • Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement
  • Using the navigation feature on the phone
  • Receiving safety-related information such as weather alerts

Lawmakers Concerns

Lawmakers were concerned this bill could lead to racial disparities. During debate, Representative Al Jacquet said it would likely mean more people of color in his district would be unfairly targeted by police. For this reason, lawmakers included a provision that requires officers to report the race/ethnicity of people given citations. That data will be compiled and analyzed.

Distracted Driving is a Growing Problem

As BFF has told you, there are multiple studies that show the number of crashes involving distracted drivers has gone up as much as 4 times since 2013. Earlier this month, one study claimed distracted drivers are a bigger threat on the road than drunk drivers. Florida joins 46 other states in making Texting while Driving a Primary Offense.

Read an editorial post from BikeWalkLee, an organization fighting for safer streets in Lee County

The Next Step Against Distracted Driving.

See How Your Lawmaker Voted:

Initial Bill- House Vote

Amended Bill- Senate Vote

Amended Bill- House Vote

Ready, set, GO: OCSO celebrates the extended Pine Hills Trail

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Bubbles drifted through the morning air. Music from the DJ wafted in the breeze. Five-hundred legs ran, jogged, walked. An aura of active anticipation engulfed the area.

That was the scene at the Pine Hills Trail 5K Fun Run and Walk on June 15.

The Florida weather showed mercy in celebration of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s inaugural annual event. The 250 participants enjoyed temperatures in the 80s as they hit the new Pine Hills Trail. Orange County commissioner Victoria Siplin and additional visitors – even the sheriffs’ noble horses — attended the celebration.

Best Foot Forward was there and paired with its Orange County partners to educate participants on pedestrian and bicycle safety. Table visitors received materials, like magnets, flyers and comic books, to take back to their friends and families. BFF also shared tips for street safety and answered questions about Florida pedestrian and bicycle laws.

Other local groups made appearances at the 5K. Walmart, a major sponsor of the event, distributed food and drinks to help recharge runners after the race. The company also raffled off bicycles to 12 lucky winners toward the end of the occasion.

Additionally, Sheriff John Mina recognized Bike/Walk Central Florida with a certificate of appreciation for its contribution to the event. BWCF and Orange County gave out free bike helmets to the raffle winners and any anyone else who needed one.

By noon, the sun was high, temps were climbing and the affair was complete. But don’t worry, everyone will be back again next year for the second annual event.

UPDATE: Operation BFF: Law Enforcement Target Unsafe Drivers to Protect Children, Seniors

UPDATE: June 28, 2019

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The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office took their turn helping to make the streets safer by encouraging drivers to yield for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. On Wednesday, June 26, the OCSO participated in Operation Best Foot Forward at three crosswalks: N. Doverplum Ave. and San Remo Rd., Koa St. and Laurel Ave. and Old Dixie Hwy. and Sawdust Trail.

One reason the BFF team chose Old Dixie Highway and Sawdust Trail is because it’s near a neighborhood where kids use the crosswalk to get to a community center. With school out for the summer, more kids are using the crosswalk throughout the day. Before enforcement, we tracked just 12% of drivers were stopping for people in the crosswalk, as Florida law requires. Because of this, and its proximity to the community center, Osceola County recently installed a rectangular rapid flashing beacon. That’s a big sign with a flashing light to warn drivers when there’s a person trying to cross the street.

Doverplum and San Remo, a crosswalk that has been monitored since 2017, had a pre-enforcement yield rate of 35 percent. The Koa and Laurel crosswalk, which lies by a local elementary school, had a pre-enforcement yield rate of 49 percent. Together, these two locations comprised the first two stops of the operation.

Two local news outlets, Positively Osceola and WFTV, came to visit throughout the day. When it was finally time for deputies to pack up, Osceola deputies had issued a total of 24 citations and 10 warnings to drivers who failed to yield to their decoy

Thank you to the deputies at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office for all of your hard work!

Original Post: June 21, 2019

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You’re driving down a road, and you see someone step into a crosswalk up ahead. So you slow to a stop to let that person safely cross. The concept seems simple, yet last week law enforcement partners in Orange and Osceola counties issued more than 100 warnings and citations for drivers failing to do just that.

On June 19th, teams from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and the Orlando, Kissimmee and St. Cloud Police Departments enforced nine different crosswalks over the course of the day for Operation Best Foot Forward. Their goal: to get more drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, making those crosswalks safer.

During Operation BFF, “decoys”, or plainclothes deputies and officers walk across a marked crosswalk. They check to see which drivers don’t stop, as Florida law requires. Drivers disobeying the law are pulled over by uniformed officers ahead and given at least a $164 reminder, plus three points on their license. This was Best Foot Forward’s second multi-county enforcement operation.


This time the BFF coalition chose a crosswalk where elderly residents have complained drivers won’t stop, so they can’t cross the street safely (Rio Grande Ave. & 40th St.). One crosswalk is near one of the top ten crash corridors, according to MetroPlan Orlando (Columbia St. & Kuhl Ave.). A third enforced crosswalk is in the heart of the tourist district and the site of an Orange County road project (Westwood Blvd. near I-Drive). Those are just a few reasons for picking this set of crosswalks.

With the help of local media coverage, BFF was able to reach more than a million Central Floridians to spread our message of safer streets. Drivers need to stop for people in crosswalks, and more people should use crosswalks.

Thanks to all of our partners for spreading the word, and thank you to our brave law enforcement BFFs for hitting the crosswalks yet again. Next up – the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office will be out ticketing drivers who don’t stop at three crosswalks on June 26th.

Watch media coverage of Operation BFF.

Teen BFF honored for helping mom after crash

Last year, our BFF Roni Wood spent a week in the hospital and three months in a wheelchair after a driver hit her while she walked her bike across a crosswalk. Every pedestrian’s nightmare became her reality when a driver turned right on red without looking for people crossing, and hit her.

But, her fate could have been a lot worse if she hadn’t been with her son, J.T., who immediately called 911. An ambulance showed up within minutes, ready to give Roni crucial emergency care.

One big reason Roni joined Best Foot Forward is to help educate drivers to be aware of other people on the road and on their legal obligation to yield to pedestrians. Although, it’s important to always be prepared in case of an emergency. A quick call for help, like J.T.’s, could be all it takes to save a life.

J.T. recently received the 911 Local Heroes Medal of Honor for his quick, calm call to help his mom. Check out Fox 35’s coverage of the ceremony, where he was honored in front of the community and first responders.

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