When asked to imagine a traffic accident, most Americans imagine two cars colliding instead of a pedestrian and a vehicle. This lack of consideration for walkers is causing pedestrian fatalities to increase while overall traffic fatalities decrease. Nationally, in 2012, pedestrians accounted for 14 percent of all traffic deaths, up six percent from 2011.
This is a particularly important issue in Florida because our state is home to the top four most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. According to “Dangerous by Design 2014,” a report released by the National Complete Streets Coalition, AARP and the American Society of Landscapes Architects, the Orlando-Kissimmee area is ranked the most dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians. The second most dangerous metro area is Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, followed by Jacksonville, then the Miami-Dade-Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area.
One factor that contributes to Florida having the most dangerous cities for pedestrians is the increasing number of adults 50+. There are almost five million Baby Boomers living in Florida and that number will only increase. Many of these older Americans do not drive and use walking as their main mode of transportation. Unfortunately, as we age, deterioration in the physical, cognitive and sensory abilities can create mobility concerns that foster dangerous situations for ourselves and the people around us.
Additionally, this issue is further exacerbated because roads are made for vehicles and not for pedestrians. This can make simple outings hazardous for walkers, especially older adults, because the road may be too wide, the traffic signal may be too short, or there is a lack of safe and convenient crossing opportunities.
How can we help?
AARP Florida recognizes a need for safer streets, not just for older Americans but for Americans of all ages and abilities. That’s why AARP promotes the livable communities concept. This model supports the efforts of cities, towns, counties and states to provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.
AARP also strongly endorses the Safe Streets Act of 2014. This bipartisan legislation would involve all states and local planning organizations adopting safe streets policies for federally funded projects within two years. The policies would consist of basic guidelines for states and communities to ensure that new construction is appropriate and safe for all. This act does not require new money and it does not require transportation agencies to use a specific road design.
AARP Livable Communities and the Safe Streets Act of 2014 will not fix all of our roadway safety problems overnight, but it’s a promising start. With time, Florida’s streets will be designed to be safer and accessible for all.
To get specific information about each metro area, read the news releases issued on May 20 by AARP Florida:
You can also read the full report online.