A new report ranks the Jacksonville metro area as the third most dangerous place for pedestrians in the country with 359 pedestrian deaths from 2003 to 2012.
The "Danger by Design" study, compiled by advocacy group Smart Growth America, ranks the “Pedestrian Danger Index” of cities using data on “the share of local commuters who walk to work—the best available measure of how many people are likely to be out walking each day—and the most recent five years of data on pedestrian fatalities.”
Four of the top five most dangerous cities for pedestrians are in Florida. Orlando tops the list, followed by Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami. Memphis, Tennessee rounds out the top five.
Duval County is ranked seventh in Florida for total pedestrian fatalities.
According to the report, communities in the South are among the most dangerous places to walk because they were built in the post-war period that favored low density construction and wider streets with faster speed limits.
The report also identifies children, older adults, and minorities as those most threatened as pedestrians.
“While comprising 12.6 percent of the total population, adults aged 65 and older account for nearly 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide from 2003 to 2010,” the report reads.
Laura Cantwell, associate state director for advocacy at AARP Florida, said that seniors are more at risk in part because they may be less aware of the dangers around them.
“Older adults often face more risk as pedestrians because they are less able to react quickly to oncoming vehicles, and then if they are struck, they are less likely to recover from the collision,” she said, citing a statistic that older adults account for one in five pedestrian fatalities across the country.
In Florida, minorities are also at higher risk. The average annual fatality rate for non-Hispanic whites in Florida was 2.85 per 100,000 residents, while the rate for both blacks and Latinos was 3.4.
Cantwell said federal, state, and local officials will have to come together to find solutions to remove Florida from the top of the list.
“The deaths are preventable if they can put changes into place through policy, design and practice,” she said. “I think it’s also changing the mindset of how we’re looking at the cities, I think that’s the first thing that needs to be done.”
In a release on the report, AARP noted that Jacksonville officials have taken recent steps to address the issue, namely the adoption of city policy calling for more pedestrian-friendly street designs and the creation of a full-time bicycle and pedestrian coordinator position.
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