Unfortunately, the roads in our part of Florida can be congested because of popular tourist destinations and the beautiful beaches of the Panhandle. Naturally, vacationers and locals alike are out and about in the sunny weather as pedestrians taking advantage of all our area has to offer. When motorists drive negligently or recklessly, they can tragically strike walkers and runners, causing injury, disability and even death.
New pedestrian crossing lights
This summer, we posted a blog about the traffic congestion on US Highway 98 through Fort Walton Beach. In an effort to protect pedestrians in traffic, local officials installed five pedestrian traffic lights along that highway in mid-July. According to The Destin Log, the pedestrian crossing lights coordinate with the regular traffic lights to make breaks in traffic long enough for people to walk across the busy highway.
The article also cites the Okaloosa County Sheriff for the fact that there have been no pedestrian accidents on the stretch of US 98 containing the new pedestrian lights since their installation. The piece also says that about 18 percent of 617 total accidents involved pedestrians on that part of the highway between 2007 and 2013.
Pedestrian accident facts and statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes annual statistics about various kinds of motor vehicle accidents. The most recent Traffic Safety Facts brochure regarding pedestrians discusses 2014 data. Some 2014 information from this publication of note:
- Florida had the second highest pedestrian traffic fatality rate of 2.96 per 100,000 people, only behind New Mexico.
- Nationally, about one-quarter of pedestrian traffic fatalities happened from 6 to 8:59 in the evening.
- About two-thirds of pedestrian traffic deaths were male.
- Almost half of traffic accidents involving pedestrians involved alcohol use, including either by drivers or pedestrians or both.
- Almost all (90 percent) vehicle-pedestrian crashes in which the walker died involved only one vehicle.
- About three-quarters of fatal pedestrian accidents happened in urban areas.
- About three-quarters of fatal pedestrian accidents were not at intersections.
- About three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes happened after dark.
- Adults 60 and older represented a higher percentage of pedestrian fatalities.
Steps toward increased pedestrian safety
Pedestrian safety will of course be an ongoing concern in the Florida Panhandle and beyond. It is encouraging to see our officials taking steps to increase safety like the new crossing lights on US 98. In addition, private industry is also stepping up with new technology aimed at pedestrian safety.
For example, Yahoo reports that Swedish car company Volvo has announced new technology for its quiet electric buses that uses detection cameras to identify pedestrians and cyclists in danger of being struck when the buses are in motion. The technology then emits sounds to both the pedestrian and the bus driver to alert them to the danger of collision. If an accident is imminent, the bus horn will actually honk.
In the meantime, anyone in the Florida Panhandle who is injured or whose loved one is killed in a vehicle-pedestrian accident should speak with an attorney as soon as possible after the incident. A lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of the crash and communicate with officials and insurance companies on behalf of the client. In addition, legal counsel will help the victim understand what legal options are available, including a possible personal injury or wrongful death suit.