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City of Orlando and Orange County BFFs see progress amid challenges to change driver behavior

Fondly referred to as the BFFs, members of the Best Foot Forward for Pedestrian Safety Steering Committee met last week at Orlando Health’s Regional Medical Center to review the program’s progress and plans for 2019 and beyond.

The BFF steering committee includes some of the most passionate, dedicated people in Central Florida transportation planning, engineering, education and enforcement working together to reverse the deadly trend of drivers striking people walking and bicycling. BFF partners taking part in the meeting included City of Orlando Transportation Planning and Police Department, Orange County Transportation Planning, Transportation Engineering and Sheriff’s Office, MetroPlan Orlando, Orlando Health, Florida Department of Transportation, University of Miami’s WalkSafe and Bike/Walk Central Florida.

To start the meeting, Mighk Wilson, MetroPlan Orlando transportation planner, gave an overview of Orange County pedestrian crash type trends. He stated that while MetroPlan’s data shows some progress, the recent bump in fatalities is likely tied to the overall bump in crash severity.

Mighk reported that the number of crashes involving motorist failing to yield is down this year.  He also said that as of October, pedestrian deaths and injuries are trending down in Orange County overall.  (Click here to review Mighk’s slides.)

The committee took some time to review BFF’s progress since the program began in 2012 and over the past year. Highlights include:

  • Since 2012, BFF has monitored 85 total crosswalks.
  • Law enforcement partners have issued 7,612 citations and warnings to drivers failing to yield to pedestrians during 381 Operation BFF enforcement details.
  • BFF partners have participated in 378 events and presentations.
  • In 2018, BFF garnered more than $650,000 in media value and 3,750,000 impressions.
  • In 2018, 22 crosswalks were monitored and enforced in the City of Orlando and Orange County.
  • 60% of drivers yield to pedestrians at monitored crosswalks on roads 35mph and lower in Orange County & City of Orlando – a jump from 17% in 2012.
  • 21% of drivers yield to pedestrians on roads 40mph and higher in Orange County & City of Orlando – a jump from just 2% in 2012. (Click here for complete 7-year list of BFF crosswalks monitored, including yield rates).

Before getting down to business of 2019 planning, the committee welcomed WFTV Eyewitness 9 News reporter Racquel Asa for a conversation on how we talk about pedestrian and bicycling fatalities and safety through the media.

The BFFs candidly discussed the language used in many news reports and how it feeds our “us (driver) vs. them (pedestrian)” culture.  BFF program director Amanda Day shared some examples of how victim-blaming is prevalent in news stories about pedestrian fatalities. Stories also tend to state that a vehicle, not a driver, is responsible for striking the pedestrian.

“We’re up against a language barrier when we discuss pedestrian fatalities,” said Amanda.

“It’s all about empathy when we try to change behaviors.”

Racquel also offered some advice on how BFFers can position pedestrian safety stories.  “Viewers need to be reminded of why this matters to them personally,” she said. She used examples of an accident affecting someone’s drive time to work or a new crosswalk making it safer near their child’s school. “Tell us why they should care.”

Click here to read more on the conversation with Racquel Asa.

The dialogue with Racquel also sparked ideas for more detailed driver/pedestrian education through the media. Ian Sikonia, senior planner with City of Orlando Transportation Planning, asked if it’s possible to add some “rules of the road for drivers and pedestrian safety” to the news stories reporting on pedestrian/driver crashes and fatalities. Thanks to his suggestion, Racquel followed up immediately after the meeting with a message that WFTV “is going to make it standard protocol now on including the ‘rules of the road for pedestrians’ in all related stories.” WFTV will also create a Facebook video that will explain the rules or laws using some of the elements and graphics from BFF.

BFF partners began reviewing potential crosswalks for monitoring in 2019.  Crosswalks must meet certain criteria to be viable for monitoring:

  1. Crosswalk is enforceable.
  2. Recent or planned engineering changes to the crosswalk.
  3. Low level driver compliance.
  4. Close proximity to schools, LYNX bus stops or SunRail.
  5. Located near a high crash corridor.
  6. Cross section of road speeds for all crosswalks.
  7. Geographically dispersed throughout City and Orange County.

The BFF committee will finalize the 2019 list to be monitored and dates for Operation BFF throughout the City and County in January.

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