Dubious Distinctions: Florida and Bay County Rank Among Most Dangerous Places for Pedestrians
As a Panama City personal injury law firm, we are all too aware of the danger of pedestrian accidents. We have previously cited the online resource Walkinginfo.org, which reports that Florida joins California, Texas, and New York in being the top 4 states for pedestrian deaths. These 4 states account for only 5% of all traffic fatalities nationwide, but shockingly account for a whopping 41% of pedestrian fatalities in our country. This means Florida had more than its share of the nation's 4,280 pedestrian deaths in 2010, and likely a similarly oversized portion of the nation's approximately 70,000 pedestrian injuries for the same year.
New Research Singles Out Both Florida and Bay County
We had hoped for news that this trend was reversing, that our state was showing signs of improvement as government and public interest groups considered the pedestrian safety problem. Sadly, this improvement hasn't become reality. According to a report by WJHG, Florida held the unfortunate distinction of leading the country in pedestrian deaths in 2012 – not a "#1" ranking to brag about.
Adding to our concern as residents of Northwest Florida, the problem appears to be especially bad here in Bay County. Lieutenant David Baldwin of the Bay County Sheriff's Department noted that the county has seen among the highest number of pedestrian traffic accidents within Florida for several years. In 2012, 37 people were killed in roadway accidents in Bay County, and 11 of those fatalities were pedestrians. The threat is confirmed by an annual survey by the Environmental Working Group. Over the past several years, the "Mean Streets" study listed Bay County as one of Florida's most dangerous areas for pedestrians.
Understanding the Problem and Making Our Region Safer for Pedestrians
Why is our region so prone to pedestrian accidents? Some officials in Bay County cite problems with poor lighting and limited sidewalks as factors in the local statistics. As a whole, there are simply more people walking in Florida than in many areas of the United States due to the warm weather. Locally, tourists in particular frequently walk between their hotels and attractions such as restaurants, stores, and nightclubs. Lt. Baldwin notes that poorly-lit roads are unfriendly to pedestrian traffic. However, the foot traffic is only increasing as more residential areas are built. Drunk pedestrians are a factor, especially during the Spring Break season, but the County does need to take some responsibility for the problem.
Baldwin cites recently completed road projects in the Thomas Drive, Front Beach, and Middle Beach Road area as an example of positive change that will improve safety. He notes that the sidewalk will be essential during the tourist season, making it safer for people to walk to the clubs. General pedestrian tips like walking facing traffic and using a flashlight and/or reflective clothing during the night hours can also help those on foot stay safe.
Ultimately, a large share of the responsibility for pedestrian safety rests on the shoulders of drivers. Florida law requires drivers to be alert for pedestrians and "exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians" (Florida Statutes Section 316.130(15)). As an experienced Panama City pedestrian accident attorney, Wes Pittman knows that collisions between automobiles and pedestrians can cause serious injuries or even death.
It is not hard to imagine that an unprotected person is likely to suffer serious consequences when hit by a 2-ton car with safety features focused on protecting the occupants. Attorney Pittman knows that many such accidents are the result of inattentive or otherwise negligent drivers. Our team believes in holding these drivers responsible for their actions, and will also explore claims about specific dangerous areas where appropriate. If you or a loved one suffered injury while walking in our region, please call for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.