We are lucky enough to live in a temperate climate that affords us the option of travelling by foot, at least before the heat of July and August sets in and the air conditioner becomes too tempting to pass up. However, as a recent headline on the website of The News Herald reminds us, pedestrian accidents in Panama City remain an unfortunate reality.
On Friday June 8, a pedestrian was seriously injured on 15th Street, near the Mound Avenue intersection. The 63-year-old Panama City man was not using the intersection when he was struck by a vehicle while crossing U.S. 98. Initial indications did not suggest any error on behalf of the driver, 28-year-old Kellie Taylor, also of Panama City.
No charges have been filed in the incident. The pedestrian, who is believed to have walked into the car's path, was taken to Bay Medical Center with serious, life-threatening injuries. An earlier version of the Herald's article noted that this is the third time in six months that a serious accident has occurred in the same general area, including a pedestrian death on December 9, 2011 that happened just a quarter-mile away.
Nationwide reports found that 4,280 lives were lost in pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes in 2010, a number that translates to nearly 12 deaths per day. Additionally, an estimated 70,000 pedestrians were injured in crashes during 2010. Although both numbers are part of a downward trend since 1995, it is still a significant toll, especially considering that hospital records suggest that only a fraction of the injury-causing crashes are reported to the police.
The problem of pedestrian crashes is particularly present in our state. Florida recorded the second-highest number of pedestrian deaths in the nation for 2010. Per capita pedestrian fatality rates above the national average were also seen in other fast-growing Sunbelt States, including Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. However, Florida's rate was 50% higher than that reported in California, 62% percent higher than Texas, and 85% above the average per capita rate nationwide.
This is certainly not an area in which we wish to be a nationwide leader, and the 2010 statistics prompted the Florida Department of Transportation to announce plans to create and implement a statewide Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. A meeting in May 2011 revealed the results of research into the problem of pedestrian accidents in Florida. Most of those involved reported a belief that improving safety would be best achieved by a multi-disciplinary approach including enforcement, engineering, and education.
Suggested engineering improvements included the installation of sidewalks or paved shoulders, the creation of convenient crosswalks that are clearly visible to both drivers and pedestrians, and the use of good lighting in areas frequented by pedestrians. The importance of enforcing the law with both pedestrians and drivers was also discussed, along with the need for education efforts aimed at both populations.
We urge local, state, and national authorities to continue efforts to make our communities safe for pedestrians. Our Panama City personal injury law firm is available to help victims of automobile accidents in Northern Florida.