The New York Times yesterday noted a
recent survey by Transportation for America (a non-profit advocacy group) of the nation's most dangerous places to walk. A related survey of most dangerous places to drive is discussed in my
blog post several days ago. This NYT article examines why the
fatality rate of pedestrians is sharply higher for cities in Florida than other cities. Researchers for the study used 10 years of pedestrian fatality and census data to come up with rankings. Reasons suspected for Florida's terrible statistics for pedestrians: the rapid growth of cities like Orlando has led to wide six-lane roads with long stretches between stoplights ("superblocks") and bus stops placed sometimes as far as half a mile away from a crosswalk or intersection with a light. Posted speeds are usually 45 miles an hour but 60 miles an hour is more typical.
Many feel that the pedestrians are to blame for their own injuries or deaths if they're not crossing the street at a crosswalk or intersection. Case in point was the tragic death of a four-year old Cobb County, Georgia boy, "A.J.". His mother chose to take a shortcut across the street instead of crossing at the intersection, and a driver hit the family, killing the little boy. The mother said she was trying to get her family home before dark. A judge found the mother guilty of 2nd degree homicide by vehicle, crossing the roadway other than at a crosswalk, and reckless conduct. She was sentenced and placed on probation, drawing attention and headlines across the country. The judge has since granted the mother's request for a new trial on all the charges. The driver who hit them left the scene but pled guilty to hit and run, was sentenced to five years and served six months in jail, the remainder on probation.
Some traffic safety groups feel that it's the design of the roads, the long blocks, bus stop locations not near intersections, and the "road warrior" mentality that's the crux of the problem. Pedestrians must face choices of getting themselves off a wide, multiple-laned road as soon as possible for their (and sometimes their children's) safety versus walking up to half a mile to an intersection. And of course, it's the people who aren't as likely to own cars that are affected the most. Pedestrian advocacy groups say places like Orlando and Cobb County should modernize the roads and the placement of bus stops to reduce tragedies like the death of small A.J.
Sources: "Florida Again Found Most Dangerous," Lizette Alvarez,
The New York Times, August 15, 2011, "Cobb Mom Opts for New Trial in Hit and Run Case," Marcus Garner, Elise Hitchcock,
AJC, July 27, 2011.
Photo: Chip Litherland for The New York Times