When it comes to pedestrian fatalities, Florida dominates a recent list of the deadliest metropolitan areas in the entire country. An organization called Smart Growth America publishes an annual report that lists the top ten most dangerous areas for walking. For 2019, eight of those ten were in Florida.
This is a truly alarming statistic when you really stop to think about it, but if you read the local news media in Lee County, it's not hard to believe.
On Wednesday, September 18th, a woman was walking across Colonial Boulevard at the intersection of S.R. 82 when she was hit by a black SUV. The driver allegedly drove away from the scene, but was later located about 13 miles away in Estero. The woman she is accused of hitting died on Thursday, which was Lee County's 66th traffic fatality this year.
Hit-and-run crashes involving pedestrians are also becoming far too common in the Fort Myers area. There have been news reports of people saying they “didn't realize they had hit anything”, or claim they thought they hit some inanimate object, like a garbage can or a mailbox. Those stories are most often proven false, however, when police finally discover the vehicle involved – which has usually been hidden somewhere – and it shows damages consistent with the way the pedestrian has been hit.
Smart Growth's study uses what is called the PDI, or Pedestrian Danger Index. The data is based on the number of pedestrian fatalities in proportion to the overall population, along with the number of people who walk to work.
Between 2008 and 2017, 49,000 pedestrians lost their lives after being struck by a motor vehicle nationwide, and 11% of those were in Florida. Lee County accounted for 148 pedestrian deaths in that time period.
Unfortunately, the study or rankings do not indicate who was at fault for the fatality, the vehicle driver or the pedestrian. In many cases, people try crossing a road without the benefit of a crosswalk, dart out in front of a car or are looking at their phone while trying to cross the street.
If you'd like to read the exact Florida statutes regarding pedestrian laws, the American Safety Council has published them here.
Staying Safe as a Pedestrian or Bicyclist
The Goldberg Noone Law Firm has represented many victims who have suffered serious injuries as a result of being struck by a car either on foot or riding a bicycle. Here are some basic tips to help keep you safe:
- Always use a marked crosswalk to cross a street, and obey the “walk” or “don't walk” signals.
- Take your earbuds out and put the phone down
- Always walk on the sidewalk. If none is available, walk facing towards the oncoming traffic
- Cyclists must follow all applicable traffic laws, just like drivers
- Cyclists should have a bright white light on the front of their bikes and a visible red one on the rear
- If a cyclist and a pedestrian are in a crosswalk or on a sidewalk, the pedestrian has the right-of-way
“A car striking someone on foot can be a devastating impact for the pedestrian,” says Goldberg Noone trial attorney Sheba Abraham. She goes on to point out that there are many variables that can lead to a deadly pedestrian-vs-car crash. “People often don't even see a pedestrian or bicycle before impact because they're distracted by something they're doing on their phone, or just not paying attention,” she says. “If a person is walking across a crosswalk and trying to see a car driver's face to judge what they may be looking at, the super dark window tint on some cars makes that impossible – you really have no idea what their intentions are.”
Both drivers and pedestrians need to use extreme caution when sharing our roadways in order to reduce the staggering number of Southwest Florida fatalities. And as we've said before, leaving the scene of any kind of crash is never the right thing to do. You're only going to face more serious consequences when law enforcement eventually finds you – and rest assured, they will.
If you or someone you know has been struck by a motor vehicle while on foot, we're here to help. Call our Southwest Florida pedestrian accident lawyers at 239-461-5508, or just submit the simple form on the right side of this page and we'll contact you immediately to answer any questions you may have.