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New 'Target Zero' campaign aims to end major car crashes in the Tampa Bay area

 Officers standing behind motorcycles with a man speaking at a podium in front of an audience.
Meghan Bowman
WUSF Public Media
Florida Department of Transportation District Seven Secretary David Gwynn talks about the new campaign Target Zero to combat aggressive driving. He says every day eight people die and 49 people are seriously injured in car crashes in the state. The campaign's goal is to get those numbers to zero.

Law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay region are partnering together on a campaign called Target Zero. The focus is to one day have no fatalities or serious injury crashes.

Law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay region are partnering together on a campaign called "Target Zero."

Its goal: zero transportation-related deaths and injuries on Florida roadways.

"Every day in Florida, eight people die and 49 more are seriously injured on public roadways in traffic crashes, many of which are preventable," Florida Department of Transportation District Seven Secretary David Gwynn said at a press conference Tuesday.

West Central Florida — Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties — has the highest number of major crashes among young male drivers in the state.

Gwynn said the campaign is focused on identifying the contributing behaviors leading to such accidents and creating messaging that encourages safer driving habits.

While combatting aggressive driving is a key focus for "Target Zero," making the streets safer for pedestrians is also a major concern, according to District Seven traffic safety engineer Emmeth Duran.

He said in Hillsborough County, some of the most dangerous places for pedestrians are on six lane divided corridors and 45 mph roads, like Hillsborough and Fowler Avenues.

"We see a lot of crashes happening at signalized intersections, and few of them are happening mid-block," Duran said. "The way we are addressing those is installing more mid-block crosswalks, looking at the distance that we have between signals, and trying to break those long blocks because nobody wants to walk half a mile under the sun to the nearest crosswalk."

The county also plans to install leading pedestrian intervals, or LPIs, at some of these dangerous intersections.

LPIs give pedestrians a three to seven second head start to walk into the crosswalk before lights turn green. With that extra time, experts say, the pedestrians can be better seen by drivers attempting to turn left.

For times when no sidewalks are present, Duran said pedestrians should walk facing traffic and stay close to the shoulder. And if you walk at night, consider wearing bright clothing or using a cell phone as a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.

Last year saw the highest number of pedestrian deaths nationwide since 1981.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says Florida had the third highest rate of pedestrian deaths last year (3.70 per 100,000 people), behind New Mexico (4.40) and Arizona (4.17).

Representatives for local law enforcement agencies also voiced a need for improved road safety.

"We are happy to partner with FDOT on their 'Target Zero' campaign that targets zero fatalities and serious injuries," Col. Joseph Maurer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. "Because when it comes to human lives, no other number is acceptable. Zero is the ultimate number."

Tampa Police Maj. Richard Mills said the campaign goes hand-in-hand with "Vision Zero Tampa," a strategy to eliminate injury and death on city streets through "engagement, education, and enforcement."

"We must remember that even one foot traffic fatality is one too many," he said. "Highlighting the importance of safe driving, along with an expanded officer presence on the roadway, will hopefully result in safer streets for pedestrians, for cyclists, and motorists alike."

Sgt. Steve Gaskins with the Florida Highway Patrol said with the state's population growing and the high number of tourists, the campaign is an important tool to help keep everyone safe on the roads.

"What I want to have happen is all those numbers — the fatalities, the crashes, the speeding tickets, the DUIs — get it down to zero," he said.

"I don't want to have to take somebody to jail," Gaskins added. "I don't want to have to go knock on someone's door and tell them a loved one's not coming home because of someone's poor driving behavior."

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.
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