With year-round warm weather and stunning vistas to enjoy, you might think our state would be a cyclist’s dream. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named Florida the number one most deadly state for cyclists. The CDC report combined data from 1975 to 2012, measuring the rate of bicycle deaths associated with traffic.
The report turned up some interesting data points. The rate of mortality in bicycle accidents in America ranges significantly, from 0.04 per 100,000 in the lowest state, Vermont, to a high of 0.57 per 100,000 in Florida. And though bicycles account for only 1% of transportation, cyclists die on US roadways at a rate twice that of those in motor vehicles.
Florida’s Roads Dangerous for Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Many believe Florida’s infrastructure and safety measures lag behind the rest of the nation. Randy Wells with the Florida League of Cities is one of them. “I think it’s a call to action, and other communities, other states, have made very significant impacts,” Wells said to News4Jax. “We’ve got a targeted goal of reducing pedestrian bicycle accidents, fatalities. Ultimately it comes down to ‘speed kills.’”
Bicycle riding continues to grow in popularity, however, despite safety concerns on Florida’s roads. The Department of Transportation met recently to discuss the problem of cyclist fatalities. Unfortunately, there’s no easy, straightforward solution to the issue.
“It’s everything from enforcement to education of drivers to make sure that they understand the laws that protect bicyclists and pedestrians,” FDOT spokesman Jim Wood said.
Lawmakers failed in their 2015 attempt to draft a bill imposing harsh penalties for injuring bike users. A new bill has already been filed for 2016. The legislation is designed to protect “vulnerable road users” in Florida, a group that includes bicyclists and motorcycle riders. A motorist who injures a cyclist may face higher fines. And drivers accused of multiple incidents of injuring cyclists (twice in five years) could face prison time.
Unfortunately, Florida roads are also notoriously unsafe for pedestrians. In 2014, Smart Growth America released a study called “Dangerous By Design.” Of the top five most dangerous cities in the nation, four were in Florida. The most dangerous city was Orlando, followed by Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and Miami.
Why Are Florida Roads So Dangerous?
Florida roads are beginning to develop a notorious reputation. State representatives have met several times to discuss the matter of pedestrian safety on Florida roadways, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Are Florida roads, as the 2014 study claimed, “dangerous by design”?
Priyanka Alluri, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Florida International University, was the head researcher of a report for the Department of Public Safety. In the Senate Transportation Committee, she outlined the poor state of pedestrian safety in Florida.
Florida has the highest pedestrian fatality to population rate in the United States. In 2011, there were 2.6 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents. The national average on the same scale is 1.46.
Alluri said several factors were responsible for Florida’s high pedestrian mortality – many of which apply to cyclists just as much as pedestrians. She noted that a high number of drivers on Florida roads aren’t native to the state. Tourists and immigrants account for many of the cars on the road, and they may be unfamiliar with the geography and traffic rules of our state. She also mentioned the state’s elderly population. Elderly drivers are often slower to react, and tend to get into more accidents.
Alluri also pointed out that the infrastructure was created in the years of the automobile boom, when public streets roadways were designed to accommodate cars first, and pedestrians second.
“Our roadways are designed more for vehicles. We want to move vehicles from point A to point B very quickly and more efficiently,” Alluri said. “With that kind of objective, we did not pay a lot of attention to pedestrian safety or pedestrian mobility. One example here is our roads are very wide, which is good for drivers but not too good for pedestrians.”
How to Hold Drivers Accountable
Until new legislation passes, Floridians with a passion for cycling will have to do their best to stay safe in traffic. Helmets have been statistically shown to save lives. Lights and reflective safety clothing are also crucial to staying safe at nighttime.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle or pedestrian accident, you may be able to hold the driver accountable with a personal injury lawsuit. Contact us today for personal injury representation with a proven track record.
About The Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.