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Study ranks Florida as the second most dangerous state for pedestrians

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The last place in the nation you’ll want to take a stroll: the Daytona Beach area, according to Smart Growth America’s "Dangerous by Design" report covering 2016 to 2020. Six other regions in Florida didn't fare very well, either.

With seven cities in the “top” 20, Florida comes in as the nation’s second worst place for pedestrian safety, according to a recent analysis.

The last place in the nation you’ll want to take a stroll: the Daytona Beach area, according to Smart Growth America’s "Dangerous by Design" report covering 2016 to 2020.

The Daytona Beach-Deltona-Ormond Beach region accounted for 4.25 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population per year, according to the study, which ranks areas based on walkability.

DANGEROUS BY DESIGN: Read the 2022 report

But Daytona Beach pedestrians aren’t walking in danger alone: Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater came in fourth, Jacksonville sixth, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford eighth, Palm Bay-Melbourne Titusville 12th, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach 14th and Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port 19th.

New Mexico, with 3.76 deaths per 100,000 population, was the worst walking state in the nation. Florida was next with 3.22, followed by South Carolina (3.19), Arizona (2.98) and Delaware (2.89).

Death rates are up nationally despite a drop in car traffic during the early COVID-19 pandemic. And pedestrian deaths are disproportionately high among Blacks and Native Americans, whose neighborhoods generally have more high-speed roads, heavier traffic and inadequate safety designs for pedestrians.

Dangerous by Design 2022 report

The report largely attributes pedestrian deaths to car-centric road design, like inadequate pavement markings, crosswalks placed too far apart and intersections too wide to cross quickly.

The study says the number of people struck and killed while walking reached yet another new high in 2020. More than 6,500 people were struck and killed while walking in 2020, an average of nearly 18 per day, and a 4.5 percent increase over 2019.

Albuquerque came in second place and Memphis in third. After the Tampa region, was Charleston, South Carolina.

"No metros in the top 20 improved," the report noted. "All have gotten significantly more deadly."

The study used federal data through the end of 2020, but the researchers early estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association are that 7,485 people walking were struck and killed in 2021.

"This would be the highest number in 40 years and one of the biggest single-year jumps in decades—between 11 and 13 percent in one year," the authors said.

Dangerous by Design 2022 report

In last year's report, the Orlando region was ranked the nation’s worst pedestrian place. Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, says this doesn’t mean that the area drastically improved its safety measures, but that everywhere else just got worse.

“Things have gotten so bad that while our former No. 1 most dangerous metropolitan statistical area Orlando got more dangerous, seven other cities did worse still and have now leapfrogged Orlando.”

Osborne, reiterated this isn’t a reason to celebrate.

“In this case sadly a drop in the rankings is not at all good news. It just means someone else had even worse news,” Osborne said.

In Jacksonville, safer pedestrian crossings were added in 2020 and $300,000 was allocated for crosswalk improvements last year. Yet, more than 50 pedestrians died both years.

Larry Roberts, with Jacksonville’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, says the crosswalk enhancements have helped, but a great deal more improvement is needed, including more sidewalks in older parts of town and islands for pedestrians on wide streets with high speed limits like Beach, Atlantic and San Jose boulevards.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

The report was issued by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, nonprofits that advocate for overhauling urban street designs to make them safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Danielle Prieur of WMFE and Ric Anderson of Jacksonville Today (part of WJCT) contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 Health News Florida

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.