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Dangerous by Design: Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee Region and Florida Top Lists as Most Dangerous for Pedestrians

The Metro Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee region and the State of Florida again top the lists as most dangerous for people walking. Smart Growth America (SGA) released its biennial “Dangerous by Design” report of the deadliest metro areas and states for pedestrians.

According to the report, “Over the past decade (2010-2019), the number of people struck and killed by drivers nationwide while walking increased by an astonishing 45 percent. The four most recent years on record (2016-2019) are now the four most deadly years for pedestrian deaths since 1990. During this ten-year period, 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. In 2019, the 6,237 people struck and killed is the equivalent of more than 17 people killed per day.”

SGA asserts that pedestrians and drivers are set up for tragedy by road departments that favor designs prioritizing the flow of traffic and showing less concern for the risks of walking along or across roads. “While transportation agencies have done much to avoid doing so, we urgently need to change the way we design and build roads to prioritize safety, not speed, as we currently do. In fact, the obsession with keeping traffic moving and avoiding delay at all costs in hopes of saving drivers mere seconds creates the very dangers highlighted in this report. This is why crosswalks are missing or too far apart, why lanes are too wide, why intersections are difficult to cross on foot, and why money can always be found to widen a road, even when adding sidewalks is deemed ‘too expensive,’” said Beth Osborne, transportation director for Smart Growth America.

Central Florida Moves Down in the Danger Index

There is a bright spot in the report for Central Florida. Even though the region remains at the top of the list, Metro Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee improved the most of the top 100 cities. 49 states and 84 of the 100 largest metro areas have become more dangerous compared to the decade of data covered in the report. However, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford has improved in the pedestrian danger index (PDI)* and saw one of the greatest improvements in the nation with an 18.3% drop. 

The report states that “Orlando has taken steps to address the city’s safety problem by developing a Vision Zero resolution and action plan to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities and installing traffic calming projects, though the improvements weren’t enough to move it down from the top spot for most dangerous metro area.”

If you look around, you will see significant improvements that Orange, Seminole, Osceola counties and their municipalities are making to change the car-centric infrastructure that developed for 50-years post WW II. Complete Streets policies have been adopted with road designs for all road users, not just cars.

In an interview with Kevin Spear at the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando spokesperson Samantha Holsten said, ““We know that as a local government, our infrastructure can play a key role in reducing, if not eliminating these unnecessary pedestrian fatalities. That’s why the City of Orlando has made significant investments including adopting a complete streets policy, adding miles of new sidewalks through our Orlando Walks program and enhancing pedestrian signals and crosswalks with audible countdowns, flashing beacons and textured pavement to increase visibility.”

The cities of Orlando, Casselberry, Winter Springs, Kissimmee, St. Cloud and all three counties are also partners in the Best Foot Forward (BFF) coalition for pedestrian safety whose mission is to change driver behavior through engineering, education, enforcement, equity and evaluation. And BFF partner, MetroPlan Orlando is focused on making the region safer for pedestrians in several ways. Among current efforts are:

  • Seeking additional funding during the 2021 Florida Legislative session for expansion of the Best Foot Forward for pedestrian safety program with the support of Rep. Kristen Arrington and Sen. Linda Stewart.
  • Adding a target of ZERO fatalities or serious injuries on all roads to the safety performance measures in our 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
  • Continuing to lead Complete Streets efforts in the region to consider the needs of all users in transportation planning.

*PDI = (Pedestrian deaths 2010-2019/Population 2019 x 100,000) / % of 2019 work trips made by walking





Report Calls for More State Support

The report experts called on the State of Florida and FDOT to do more to help cities and counties improve road safety conditions: “No city will be able to do it on their own because FDOT owns and operates many of the roads in those metro areas. Orlando and other Florida cities need the state to be a stronger partner.”

The 10 most dangerous states, with Florida topping the list, in order are Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, Delaware, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

The report ranks the 100 most populous metro areas by their “Pedestrian Danger Index,” which accounts for differences in population and walking rates. Florida had seven of the top ten spots. The top 20 most dangerous are:

1) Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
2) Bakersfield, CA
3) Memphis, TN-MS-AR
4) Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
5) Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
6) North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL
7) Jackson, MS
8) Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
9) Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
10) Jacksonville, FL

11) Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
12) Albuquerque, NM
13) Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
14) Greenville-Anderson, SC
15) Stockton-Lodi, CA*
16) Baton Rouge, LA
17) Birmingham-Hoover, AL
18) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX*
19) Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA*
20) El Paso, TX*

For more information on the report and rankings, click on the link below.


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