Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Roads' Dangers Baked into Design

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Roads' Dangers Baked into Design

Article excerpt

If you are about to cross a major Florida highway, you might want to carefully check the traffic. And then double-check because you are about to enter one of the most dangerous pedestrian zones in the country.

Florida has the highest pedestrian fatality rate based on population in the nation. In 2011, Florida had 2.6 pedestrian traffic deaths per 100,000 residents, compared to a national average of 1.46 deaths.

Looked at another way, about one out of every five traffic- related deaths in Florida involves a pedestrian, compared to 12 percent for the nation.

Those were some of the statistics outlined this week in the Senate Transportation Committee as members heard an updated report from the state Department of Transportation on pedestrian safety.

Priyanka Alluri, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Florida International University who was part of a team conducting the research, cited another report -- the 2014 "Dangerous By Design" study by Transportation for America.

That study ranked four Florida metro areas -- Orlando, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Miami-Fort Lauderdale -- at the top of a list of the 10 most dangerous urban areas for pedestrians in the country.

Alluri said there were several factors contributing to Florida's problem with pedestrian safety, including the large number of tourists and immigrants, who may not be aware of local roadways and rules, and an older population, which is more vulnerable due to lower reaction time and more prone to serious injuries and deaths.

She said Florida has another fundamental factor that it shares with many states.

"Our roadways are designed more for vehicles. We want to move vehicles from point A to point B very quickly and more efficiently," Alluri said. "With that kind of objective, we did not pay a lot of attention to pedestrian safety or pedestrian mobility.

"One example here is our roads are very wide, which is good for drivers but not too good for pedestrians," she added, noting the challenge of crossing a roadway with seven lanes in a major city. …

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