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Central Florida Sees Improvement in National Ranking But Has Work Ahead to Combat Pedestrian Fatalities

Smart Growth America recently released its biennial Dangerous by Design report, which continues to rank Central Florida as one of the most dangerous regions for pedestrians in the nation. Volusia County’s metro region remained in the top 5 most deadly but dropped from its #1 position on the 2022 report, overtaken in the top spot by Memphis, Tennessee. Brevard County’s metro region stayed fairly consistent, moving from #12 to #11. Other Central Florida metro regions ranking high on the list include:

  • #5 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
  • #8 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
  • #11 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville
  • #18 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  • #19 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton
  • #21 Lakeland-Winter Haven

One bright spot from the report is the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area, which had the largest ranking drop in Florida: from the 8th most deadly in the 2022 report to #18 this year. Throughout most of the 2010s, the Greater Orlando metro area ranked as the #1 deadliest for pedestrians, which helped spur the creation of the Best Foot Forward Program in 2012.  Based on program data since then, the driver yield rate to pedestrians at BFF program crosswalks has improved from 17% to 50% through community education, low-cost engineering, and high-visibility enforcement. Best Foot Forward has also maintained a coalition of pedestrian-focused officials throughout the region in coordination with MetroPlan Orlando, which has seen the combined metric of bike/ped deaths and serious injuries trend downward over the last decade, as shown in the graphs below (from Signal4Analytics.)

Why does Florida rank so much higher than other states? In total, there were 9 metro areas in Florida ranked within the report’s top 25 most deadly for pedestrians. While the report does adjust for Florida’s population size, population growth over the past decade has outpaced the rate at which road infrastructure has kept up. That existing infrastructure was designed to move as many cars as quickly as possible, as hinted in the report title “Dangerous by Design.”

Florida’s warm weather also encourages pedestrian activity during all hours and seasons, necessitating that local and state officials consider this in road designs. The Florida Department of Transportation has developed a Complete Streets policy designed to account for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users in a context-sensitive manner. With a strategic action plan in place for their Target Zero initiative, the state of Florida is positioned to enhance pedestrian safety for upcoming road designs and redesigns.

To further improve pedestrian safety in Florida, metro regions statewide will need to prioritize data-driven crosswalk evaluation. Expanding and strengthening initiatives such as the Best Foot Forward program will ensure that more regions can track the benefits of enhanced education, enforcement, and engineering efforts on driver yield rates. Collaboration between state and local governments, urban planners, law enforcement, and public health officials will be pivotal in promoting pedestrian safety statewide. By committing to these steps, Florida can bridge the gap toward a future where roads have been made safer by design.

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