Fort Myers New-Press, Jan. 23, 2019
Despite the reality of two pedestrian deaths in Lee County in the past eight days, a new study shows the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area is no longer the deadliest spot for people traveling on foot or bike in Florida.
However, Florida once again is the deadliest state for pedestrians, according to the national 2019 Dangerous By Design study.
The Cape Coral-Fort Myers area's decline in standing does not necessarily mean the area is safer, said Emiko Atherton, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.
"We don't look at actual causation," she said of the study, adding that it wasn't likely a case of Lee County getting better. "Our best guess is that some other places in Florida got worse."
The two most recent pedestrian deaths in Lee County could give pause to that assessment.
On the morning of Jan. 14, 12-year-old Alana Tamplin was hit and killed as she walked along Durrance Street near her North Fort Myers home. A few days later Pauline Griffiths, 70, of Ontario, Canada, was trying to cross the northbound lanes of 41 in North Fort Myers and was hit and killed by a motorcycle. The motorcyclist also died in the crash.The mother of Alana, Sarah Tamplin, said another crash happened on Durrance in the past few days.
"Someone hit a rider and his horse on our street. So my comment is that clearly dark or daylight doesn't make a difference," she said. "If you are behind the wheel, you need to pay attention. Get rid of the distractions because your single moment of inattention can cost someone their lives and no one deserves to lose a loved one in such a senseless tragedy."
The study, released Jan. 22 by the National Complete Streets Coalition, ranked 100 major metropolitan areas across the U.S. that are the worst for pedestrian safety based on population, pedestrian commuters and fatalities and based on statistics gathered from 2007 to 2018.
The coalition is made up of Smart Growth America, AARP and other organizations.
The study showed drivers hit and killed 49,340 pedestrians nationwide from 2007-18.
Joining Florida at the top of the list again was Alabama. The rest of the top 10 states — Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and South Carolina — stayed the same but many switched positions.
In Florida in the 2007-18 period there have been 5,433 pedestrian deaths. California had more deaths in that time frame but, with a larger population, that state had a lower pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 population percentage.
"I'm not surprised that Lee County retains a position among the worse 10 nationwide," said Dan Moser, BikeWalkLee steering committee member and traffic safety consultant. "From my perspective, since the release of the 2016 report, there's been little to no action to address the problems or even a sense of urgency among our elected and transportation officials or tourism, building, and real estate sector reps. Only advocates, first responders and those in the health care system have been waving red flags. Otherwise it's been road-building and development business-as-usual. I'd hope that this latest report will finally light a fire under those who can change things for the better."
Florida metropolitan areas ranked high in the nation's top 10. In order, the most dangerous areas were: Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Jacksonville, Bakersfield, California; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, and Jackson, Mississippi.
A previous study ranked the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area as the deadliest in the nation for pedestrians. That report covered the 2005-14 period.
Don Scott, chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said that Lee County recorded a positive in the past year with total traffic fatalities down, 93 compared to 113 in 2017.
"The negative is that pedestrian fatalities haven' changed," he said. There were 23 pedestrians deaths and four bicycle deaths in Lee County in 2018 compared to 18 and three in 2017.
Statewide, while overall traffic deaths dropped from 3,114 in 2017 to 3,004 in 2018, with pedestrian and bike deaths were up in that time. Pedestrian deaths rose from 658 to 668 and bicycle deaths went from 128 to 140.
"FHP encourages all motorists to drive sober, undistracted and with all occupants properly restrained," said Lt. Greg Bueno of the Florida Highway Patrol. "Motorists who follow all traffic laws, obey speed limits and operate in a courteous manner toward fellow drivers are always safer on the state’s highways. "
The report gave an expanded look at pedestrian safety patterns and examined how pedestrian fatalities disproportionately affected diverse communities and older people.
The report also presented data on pedestrian fatalities and injuries in every U.S. metro area included in the study, as well as state and county assessments and an online, interactive map showing the locations where pedestrian fatalities have occurred.
Among the solutions suggestion were better planning by state departments of transportation, more flexible federal guidelines for planners and engineers and higher federal funding priorities.
Deadliest areas for pedestrians
The report ranks the below metro areas for the top 20 highest (worst) “Pedestrian Danger Index” ratings:
1) Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
2) Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
3) Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
4) North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL
5) Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
6) Jacksonville, FL
7) Bakersfield, CA
8) Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
9) Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
10) Jackson, MS
11) Memphis, TN-AR
12) Baton Rouge, LA
13) Birmingham-Hoover, AL
14) Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
15) Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC
16) McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
17) Albuquerque, NM
18) Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
19) Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR
20) Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
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