Two pedestrians have been killed in Osceola County in less than a week – a tragic example of why Central Florida is the most dangerous place to walk in the country, according to a new study released last week.
The first incident happened Saturday, when a 21-year-old St. Cloud man was hit and killed by several cars while standing in the middle of Florida’s Turnpike. And early Tuesday morning, a 56-year man, who had just gotten out of the hospital, was struck and killed by an 80-year-old driver while trying to cross Orange Blossom Trail.
The two deaths highlight the region’s ranking as the deadliest in the nation for pedestrians by Smart Growth America, a nonprofit focused on development issues.
The organization studied the number of pedestrian deaths in U.S. metro areas from 2008-17 through the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a national database of traffic fatalities managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
During that time period, Florida reported the highest number of pedestrian deaths with 5,433. There were 665 deaths reported in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area, followed by the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach area, with 212 deaths.
In Florida, most of the victims involved in fatal pedestrian crashes seem to be men. In 2017, two-thirds of the victims were male and between the ages of 25 and 34, according to the FARS database.
The database also shows that 16 pedestrians in Florida died in a construction zone in 2017, many of them near Interstate 4. The database is still aggregating data for a 2018 report.
In Osceola County, nine pedestrians were killed in 2018, according to a crash data website launched this summer by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
In the past decade, the number of people struck and killed while walking increased by 35 percent nationwide, according to Smart Growth America.
“We are continuing to design streets that are dangerous for all people,” because “funding mechanisms still produce roads that prioritize high speeds for cars over safety for all people,” the study stated.
Between the new Florida law that prohibits texting while driving, and the Best Foot Forward campaign that targets drivers who violate crosswalk laws, lawmakers and advocates hope to turn the tide.
Although law enforcement officers are not issuing tickets for people caught driving while texting until January, they are pulling them over and issuing warnings.
Osceola County, the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud, and their respective law enforcement agencies, along with the Osceola County School District and Lynx bus systems, joined forces to launch the Best Foot Forward campaign in 2017. The safety initiative is designed to reverse the escalating deaths, injuries and fatalities in Osceola by changing driver behavior at pedestrian crosswalks.