A study in early 2010 concluded that Florida has a disproportionately high rate of fatal pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents. Since then, experts have been speculating as to why the state accounts for only 6% of the nation’s population but 11% pedestrian accident fatalities and 17.4% of bicyclist accident fatalities. Experts have found several causes:
1) Behaviors. Experts agree that individual behaviors and poor decisions – such as the decision to drive distracted, despite the risk of Florida car accidents or the decision to cross outside of a crosswalk – are key to many Florida car accidents and traffic accidents. However, this alone does not explain why Florida residents’ decisions seem to result in more traffic fatalities. It is hard to judge, for example, whether Florida residents make these poor judgments more often or whether their decisions simply tend to have more serious consequences for some secondary reason.
2) The structure of roads. A study by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America found that the move from clustered traditional streets to high-speed highways poses special dangers for pedestrians. However, other experts claim that streets themselves do not cause accidents.
3) A graying population. Older drivers are often blamed for Florida car accidents, especially since Florida has a graying population. However, at least one study has found that the number of elderly persons killed in Florida pedestrian accidents is 17%. This is on par with the nation-wide average.
4) Design. Representatives of Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates, a non-profit group, believe that most community designs are determined by developers, who may not always consider the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians when making design decisions.
5) Lack of education programs for pedestrians and bicyclists. According to the Florida Bicycle Association, there are few awareness programs designed specifically for bicyclists and pedestrians. Programs that remind pedestrians and bicyclists of safety rules or remind drivers about safety issues involving pedestrians and bicyclists could reduce some accidents, advocates believe.
There is some hope. Tampa was targeted as the US’s most deadly city for pedestrians in 2000 and the city got serious about changing that image. After introducing bike lanes, bike trails, crosswalks, education programs, more enforcement, more sidewalks, and other initiatives, the city’s rate of pedestrian accidents fell 56% between 2000 and 2008.