South Florida

Walk of death? Florida is the most dangerous place for pedestrians

Elderly couples cross a Little Havana street in 2015. Florida consistently ranks as the worst state for pedestrian safety.
Elderly couples cross a Little Havana street in 2015. Florida consistently ranks as the worst state for pedestrian safety. Miami Herald Staff

Walkers, it's dangerous out there.

With pedestrian fatalities at a 10-year high, Florida leads the way among the seven most dangerous metropolitan communities to walk around in the country. Though South Florida didn't crack the top 10, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach came in at a not-so-respectable 11th, according to the Dangerous by Design report released by Smart Growth America, a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates for walkable cities.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers claimed the top spot, followed by Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Jacksonville, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Lakeland-Winter Haven, and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton placed 10th. An interactive map on Smart Growth’s website shows the most dangerous spots in those metro areas.

The report ranks the 104 largest metro areas in the country, as well as every state by a “Pedestrian Danger Index,” or PDI, which factors in the share of commuters who walk to work, along with the most recent data on pedestrian deaths. Rankings are based not on the total number of fatalities but on population size, the number of people who commute on foot and the number of fatalities.

In Florida, during the 10-year period ending in 2014, 5,142 people were killed by a car while walking. In South Florida, the toll was 1,508.

The rest of the country didn't do much better. The total number of pedestrians killed in the same 10 year period was 46,149. Between 2005 and 2014, Americans were 7.2 times more likely to die as a pedestrian than from a natural disaster. In 2014 alone, an average of 13 people were struck and killed by a car every day while walking.

People of color and older adults are overrepresented in pedestrian deaths. Older adults 65 years or older are 50 percent more likely than younger individuals to be struck and killed by a car while walking. And while minority individuals account for 34.9 percent of the national population, they make up 46.1 percent of pedestrian deaths. The report concludes that, even after controlling for certain factors among these populations, these people most likely face disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking.

The report puts much of the blame on street design, particularly on roads with fast-moving cars and poor pedestrian infrastructure.

"Everyone involved in the street design process — from federal policymakers to local elected leaders to transportation engineers — must take action to end pedestrian deaths," the report concludes. "So long as streets are built to prioritize high speeds at the cost of pedestrian safety, this will remain a problem. And as the nation’s population grows older on the whole, and as we become more diverse both racially and economically, the need for these safety improvements will only become more dire in years to come."