A study from Transportation for America in 2011 ranked Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater as the second-most dangerous metro area in the US for pedestrians, behind only Orlando (and immediately ahead of Jacksonville and Miami). Several years before that, Dateline NBC called US 19 in Pinellas County “a six-lane meat grinder” for its high numbers of pedestrian fatalities. As the story points out, things have gotten better since then, but the increases in traffic volume we’ve seen in the Clearwater area since then have helped ensure that it remains a very dangerous road.
This area has been notoriously hostile to pedestrians for years. And honestly, it's no wonder. We have a lot of six- or eight-lane roads carrying a dizzying volume of traffic, often at higher-than-posted speeds. These roads tend to have large and complicated intersections, sometimes with multiple turn lanes in every direction. And of course, there aren’t nearly enough safe places to walk or cross in the first place: many of these roads don’t even have sidewalks, and crosswalks are often half a mile apart - or more.
Yes, our transportation grid isn’t designed in a pedestrian-friendly way. But unfortunately, there’s very little we can do about that now. Instead, if we as pedestrians want to avoid becoming car accident victims here in the Tampa Bay area, we’re going to have to take it upon ourselves to walk as safely as possible.
And believe it or not, there actually are a few things you can do as a pedestrian to minimize your risk of becoming just another statistic in a very grim ledger:
- First, don’t do anything that a typical driver wouldn't expect you to do.
In the aftermath of car accidents involving pedestrians, drivers often say something like "he came out of nowhere." If you're standing or walking where a driver doesn’t expect you to be, that’s exactly what it’ll look like to them.
- Always cross at crosswalks.
It’s certainly true that crosswalks are often way too far apart, or they run through some very hectic and scary intersections. But that’s where drivers are expecting you to be. They aren’t expecting you to cross halfway down the block, and if you decide to surprise them by crossing in front of them, they might not be able to stop in time.
- Don’t wear dark clothing if you’re going to be walking at night.
Enhancing your own visibility to oncoming drivers is always important, but it’s even more so in the dark. The more you blend in with your surroundings, the less likely a driver is to see you until he’s right on top of you - which may be too late.
- Intoxication can play a major role.
And no, I don’t mean drunk drivers - I'm talking about drunk pedestrians. Intoxication impairs judgement, reflexes and motor skills, which is why we as a society take DUI so seriously. But don’t pedestrians need snappy reflexes and motor skills? Doesn’t crossing six lanes of busy traffic require clear judgement? Absolutely. Pedestrians need to be just as sharp, mentally and physically, as drivers do, for the simple reason that they’re usually in a more dangerous position to begin with.
But sometimes, no matter what you do, accidents happen. After all, you can’t control what drivers do. They can be careless. They sometimes blow through crosswalks when pedestrians are present. Sometimes, they drive drunk. Or maybe they’re sending a quick text. And the sad truth is that there is nothing you can do to predict or prevent it.
You can, however, get justice. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a pedestrian in a car accident, call us at (727) 937-1400 for a free consultation. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have about your rights in general, or about your case in particular. And of course, there’s no obligation.