Even when budgets are tight, it is important to invest in safety. As a Panama City pedestrian injury law firm, we believe that investing in pedestrian safety is always smart. These investments save lives, prevent injuries, help reduce medical bills, and prevent the financial repercussions of auto accidents.
The News Herald recently announced that a street in Bay County will be getting a safety upgrade this year. Federal funding will be used for the $800,000 project, but the money is dispersed via the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for use in county and municipal projects. A 1-mile sidewalk will be constructed along the east side of Wildwood Road, between Back Beach Road (U.S. 90) and Big Daddy Drive in an unincorporated portion of Panama City Beach that lies west of the Hathaway Bridge. Previously, pedestrians have walked in the road, creating a safety threat to both the walkers themselves and drivers in the area.
Keith Bryant is a county traffic engineering manager, and he reports that he's been pursuing a walkway on the road for 10 years. He notes that the road ties together shopping and residential areas, creating a good amount of foot traffic. Although Bryant did not recall any pedestrian-vehicle accidents on the stretch, he says it is a dangerous situation, and the project will be "a tremendous safety upgrade." Needed drainage work is partially responsible for the high price tag. FDOT's District 3, which includes Bay County, is slated to see 80 projects totaling $72 million from FDOT's Local Agency Program in the next 6 years. 10 of the projects, adding up to $7.9 million, will be in Bay County. Ian Satter, the District 3 FDOT spokesman, says the plans are focused on making Florida's transportation network safe and efficient.
According to the Federal Highway Administration's ("FHWA") Safety Program, approximately 4,500 pedestrians are killed in motor vehicle crashes each year in the United States. Almost 8% of these deaths involve pedestrians killed while they were walking along a roadway, a figure that works out to 360 deaths annually or 1 life lost nearly every day. FHWA studies suggest that walkways that are separated from vehicle travel lanes could prevent up to 88%of this type of pedestrian fatality. Of course, safety improvements will also reduce the incidence of non-fatal injury accidents. Additionally, safety treatments make walking a more viable option, which can improve public health, reduce traffic, open up options for those who do not drive, and help businesses gain drop-by customers.
Pedestrian walkways tend to fall into two categories: sidewalks and widened paved shoulders. Sidewalks are generally the preferred option for pedestrians, preventing walking-along-the-roadway accidents and other pedestrian crashes. Studies indicate that roads without sidewalks see twice as many pedestrian crashes overall than roads with sidewalks along both sides. Sidewalks also move foot traffic out of vehicle travel lanes, improving motorist operations and increasing vehicle capacity. Paved shoulders also provide safety benefits for motorists and pedestrians.
FHWA guidance calls for accessible sidewalks or other pathways in urban areas, especially close to school zones and transit hubs, and in other areas with frequent pedestrian activity. The agency prefers sidewalks in these areas and suggests walkable shoulders (4 feet or wider) for use in less-developed areas with lower pedestrian traffic.
Investments in accident prevention measures will lead to huge returns, reducing the economic costs associated with accidents in addition to avoiding the human costs of such accidents. In other words, safety projects save lives and prevent injury, all while ultimately saving money as well. We hope this FDOT project and the other planned measures help prevent accidents in our region.
Unfortunately, there will always be careless drivers, and they will prove a particular danger to pedestrians. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian crash, please call our experienced Panama City personal injury law firm. Attorney Pittman represents injured Panama City pedestrians and helps them obtain crucial money damages.