Occasionally I think it’s a good idea to remind and refresh ourselves on the basics, in this case pedestrian safety. This month I want to challenge everyone to put your best foot forward. What does this mean, you ask? Best Foot Forward (BFF) is a pedestrian safety initiative which was launched in June 2012 to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries in Metro Orlando by getting drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and getting pedestrians to cross streets legally. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office participates in several BFF safety operations annually throughout the county. We identify these locations either by complaints, daily observations of deputies or crash statistics, and then conduct BFF traffic operations. Recently one such operation resulted in over 75 tickets and warnings being issued in only a few hours!
A few facts on pedestrian crashes. In the U.S., a pedestrian is struck by a car about every seven minutes. It is estimated that over 5000 pedestrians are killed each year and over 70,000 injured. Central Florida routinely ranks, at or near the top, of the list in the entire country for pedestrian deaths. On average in Central Florida, three pedestrians are injured each day and one is killed each week. 14% of pedestrian deaths in Florida occurred in marked crosswalks.
Why does this happen?
Most persons had to, at least once, read the driving manual prior to testing for their first drivers’ license. Unfortunately the rules of the road aren’t always a required thing to remember when renewing your license. This should be changed. There are those drivers who simply do not care, are in a rush and have the attitude that pedestrian safety doesn’t matter. Drivers are also more distracted and more often, not aware of the laws. Pedestrians are also at fault and put themselves at risk when illegally crossing the streets. Now add the mix of tourists not paying attention or not familiar with our rules of the road, but are still given a rental car nonetheless.
Do pedestrians always have the right of way?
The answer is no. Florida traffic laws clearly lay out the rules of the road that enable pedestrians and drivers to share the road. Pedestrians – just like drivers; must obey traffic laws. Florida statutes state “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path or a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield” This means a pedestrian has the obligation to wait on the curb and CAN NOT begin crossing the road when a vehicle is so close that they are not able to stop. Laws also state “Where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.”
Driver Laws for stopping.
Likewise and what should be more well known, is that there are many stipulations as to when a vehicle must stop for pedestrians. Florida laws state; “The driver of a vehicle at any crosswalk where a sign so indicates shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk and is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.” Additional laws state “When a vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.” The “stop for pedestrian signs” you’ll occasionally see put out at the midblock crosswalks on Celebration Avenue do not require stopping at UNLESS, there is a pedestrian, but you should always be prepared to stop. Those signs are to help warn drivers of the crosswalks and laws. Driving safely is your responsibility. If you’re driving, pay attention, look ahead, be prepared to stop and then actually stop for all pedestrians. The hurry that you’re in, is not worth the damage to lives you may cause.
We all understand that life in today’s world moves quickly. Between jobs, family lives and other daily obligations, we are all rushing to accomplish tasks. None of these are an excuse to be unsafe. What never should be forgotten is that everybody’s main goal is to make it home safely at the days end. Drivers, including you cyclists using the roads, and pedestrians must work together to share the roads and obey traffic laws to remain alive. Do not be a statistic. There is too much to lose. We will be in Celebration soon conducting traffic operations to watch for those being unsafe. Consider this your traffic warning from me as I’ll be only writing tickets to violators, especially when these operations are going on. Please be safe and change those bad driving or walking habits.
Safety tips for pedestrians to follow when crossing the road.
- 1. Stop at the curb or edge of the street. If vehicles parked on the street block your view of traffic, move forward to the edge of the line of parked vehicles where you can observe traffic in both directions. Be visible to drivers and recognize when to yield to motorists.
- 2. Look left, right, then left again for approaching traffic.
- 3. At an intersection corner, also check all directions for turning vehicles.
- 4. Determine whether there is a gap in traffic that is safe for both pedestrian and driver. Never assume that drivers see you or will stop for you.
- 5. When there is a safe gap in traffic, walk directly across the street at a consistent pace. Continuously look out for motorists or other hazards and stop looking at your phones when crossing. Remember drivers may not be attentive or tourists may not be familiar with the area. Always watch for any quick turning movements or drivers disregarding Florida traffic laws.
Driving Safety Tips
- Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.
- Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
- Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning, nearing or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the cross-walk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
- Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
This article appears in the March 2020 edition of the Celebration News