Fatal hit-and-runs on the rise in Orange County

It was supposed to be a simple errand to the Walgreens across the street.  But minutes after leaving his apartment, 39-year-old Rasheed Wiggins was dead.  Hit three times by three different drivers – two who fled the scene.  Rasheed was standing in the median when he was hit – he wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. He was following the rules. Waiting for a break in the stream of cars zooming by to cross the street.  Who would expect a car to swerve onto the median and not only hit you but flee the scene? os-rasheed-wiggins-pedestrian-killed-20160419

It’s bad enough that people like Rasheed are dying in the metro Orlando area simply trying to walk across the street or ride their bike. Unfortunately, 2016 has also seen an uptick of hit-and-runs. Rasheed’s death marks the seventh fatal hit-and-run crash in Orange County this year. Between January and April of 2015, there were only two.

Since the start of 2016, local news outlets have reported on at least eight pedestrian or bicyclist-related hit-and-runs in Central Florida. The motorists who struck these people all fled the scene of the crash. Six of the hit-and-runs harmed people walking. Four people were killed and two survived – one with critical injuries. Both of the hit-and-runs involving people on bikes were fatal.

To be clear – if someone hits a pedestrian or bicyclist and flees the scene, they are looking at a felony and jail time, if convicted. No matter who is deemed at fault.

The spate of hit-and-runs in Metro Orlando is an unwelcome trend that appears to be gaining momentum in the headlines, with one reported in January, two in February, five in March and one in April. Five of the eight accidents occurred at night, between 8:30 p.m. and 10:40 p.m.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes said hit and runs have reached “epidemic” proportions in Metro Orlando.

The top two reasons for racing away from an accident, Montes said, are driver impairment or lack of a valid license.

“Why make the situation worse?” she said of motorists who keep going. “We’re getting better at catching people.”

Investigators, Montes said, often obtain photos or video of the collision either through someone using their smart phone or a surveillance camera mounted by a business or at an intersection.

“People need to stop,” she said, “because they are going to get caught.”



We need you! Give your input on Denning Dr. at these community meetings

Denning-Drive-Winter-ParkThe City of Winter Park, with assistance from GAI Consultants, Inc., will hold two public involvement meetings to discuss Denning Drive, its current conditions, and future possibilities. The first meeting, will be in a workshop format and held Thursday, May 12. The follow-up meeting, will be held Tuesday, June 7. Both meetings will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center located at 1050 W. Morse Blvd., and public input is encouraged.

On Thursday, May 12, the meeting will involve a “walking audit” of Denning Drive giving attendees the opportunity to experience Denning from a walker’s point of view, including bike activity along the corridor as well as bus and vehicular movements along the road.  After the walking tour, the participants will discuss the corridor’s capacity to accommodate all of these modes of transportation. Special attention will be given to the relationship between residential properties and businesses along the corridor.

At the second meeting, Tuesday, June 7, staff will summarize the May meeting discussions as well as present sketches and concepts based on the feedback from the first workshop. Attendees at this meeting will have the opportunity to discuss, and provide input and suggestions on the information presented.

As part of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s (CRA) five-year Capital Improvement Plan, Denning Drive is one of the first projects the CRA is re-evaluating for performance, needs and possible improvements. The Denning Drive corridor is being evaluated under the city’s Complete Streets Resolution and is funded by the CRA. The intent of this evaluation is to improve the experience of walkers, bikers, bus riders and cars without compromising the function and level of service of the road.

For more information regarding these meetings, please contact 407-599-3665 or [email protected].

MetroPlan Orlando reports bike/ped injuries and fatalities still on the rise

metroplancrashstats_graphMetroPlan Orlando has released its latest pedestrian and bicyclist crash trends report for the tri-county area (Orange County, Osceola County and Seminole County). The report reviewed injury and fatality crash data between 2007 and 2015.

Some good news. MetroPlan Orlando reports bike/ped-related crashes are increasing less near Downtown Orlando. But overall – not only are more and more people walking and biking getting hit and injured – but the types of injuries are getting worse, according to MetroPlan.

Here’s a breakdown of some crash trends reported by MetroPlan Orlando:

Bike/ped injuries and fatalities continue to trend upward.

  • 19% increase for people walking
  • 48% increase for people biking

More people walking and biking are getting severely injured.

  • 39% increase for people walking
  • 106% increase for people biking

Crashes involving people walking and biking are increasing less near Downtown Orlando.

FHWA’s new bike/ped guidebook raises the bar for local and state performance measures

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“And we’re challenging you to ask what you can do to help communities measure and visualize how well a project increases connectivity for all residents and be a thought leader for solutions that connect Point A to Point B, without forgetting the points and people in between.”
– Secretary Anthony Foxx, US Department of Transportation (DOT)

Remember how the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) announced new performance measures last month for biking and walking? Read our coverage here. The standards aim to hold state and local governments more accountable for the US’ increasingly poor track record on bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

Well – there is a guidebook hot off the press that outlines the FHWA’s vision for these performance measures.

Key metrics outlined in the guidebook include national safety goals, infrastructure conditions, traffic congestion,reliability of local and regional transportation systems, economic impact and environmental sustainability among others.

The FHWA’s bike/ped policy push aligns with the United States DOT’s current policy statement on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation regulations and recommendations. 

It states “every transportation agency,including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide – including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life – transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.”

Both FHWA and the DOT want to see local governments, regional MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) and state DOTs not just meeting the standards but ideally exceeding them.  The guidebook includes a toolbox packed with terminology, data sources and potential bike/ped best practices to help them get the ball rolling. 

To view the guidebook, click here. Read more background about the new bike/ped performance measures on the FWHA website here.