It’s a somber read. The recently released edition of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report shows an alarming trend nationwide, as well as here in Florida.
According to the GHSA report, pedestrian fatalities increased by 53 percent nationwide, from 4,109 deaths in 2009 to 6,283 deaths in 2018. If you were behind the wheel you fared better. All other traffic related deaths rose by two percent for the same 10-year period. Yet, drilling down even further, the numbers covering other traffic related deaths have actually seen a decrease from 2016 to 2018, while pedestrian fatalities continued a steady upward trajectory.
Where does Florida stand in all of this? According to the GHSA report, Florida is among five states that accounted for almost half—47 percent— of all pedestrian deaths. The others being Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas. In the first six months of 2019, Florida registered 368 pedestrians hit and killed by drivers, which is up three percent for the same period from the year before.
It’s sobering, considering these deaths are all preventable and the numbers represent people who once had a heartbeat.
This is why Best Foot Forward (BFF) was born in 2012. Solely focused on pedestrian safety, it is the largest organization of its kind in the country; launched to reverse this trend by focusing on one specific behavior change – increase driving yielding behavior at crosswalks as Florida law requires. More than a campaign, Best Foot Forward is a behavior change-based program designed to improve road safety through consistent and persistent education, high-visibility crosswalk enforcement and low-cost engineering at marked crosswalks in close proximity to elementary schools and LYNX bus stops, in urban areas and cross-sections of low and high-speed roads. BFF calls it the “Triple E” approach.
Its latest effort to change driver behavior included massive pedestrian crosswalk enforcement efforts with its law enforcement partners throughout Central Florida in February and March, called Operation BFF. Seminole County was the first, with participation of six cities as well as unincorporated Seminole County on February 18. Crosswalk crackdown operations followed in the cities of Orlando, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, and Orange and Osceola counties March 11-12.
But much work still needs to occur to eliminate distracted driving and other behaviors that contribute to tragedy on Florida roads. This includes vigorous enforcement of the new law banning texting and driving. It also comes down to something very simple; changing attitudes and behaviors of drivers when encountering pedestrians who are just trying to cross the road to shop, go to work, exercise, and take part in everyday life. Pedestrians have the same expectations as those behind the wheel, including a life free of injury or worse.
It’s been said we cannot measure what we can prevent. Sounds daunting, but prevention is possible, when backed by action that is focused, data driven and is aimed at changing hearts and minds. Best Foot Forward remains steadfast in its dedication to saving lives, promoting pedestrian safety, and encouraging safe driver behaviors.
Go here http://www.ghsa.org/ to learn more about the latest report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.