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Orlando remains one of the deadliest areas in the country for pedestrians – Orlando Sentinel

Orlando remains one of the deadliest metropolitan areas in the country for pedestrians. The number of violent collisions between vehicles and pedestrians on the roads continues to rise. In a report released on Thursday, Florida tops the top 20.

The region, which stretches from Sanford to Kissimmee, was ranked the 18th most dangerous for pedestrians in Smart Growth America's “Dangerous by Design” report, which is based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and adjusted for different population sizes.

The report's top 20 includes numerous Florida metropolitan areas, including Volusia, Tampa, Brevard, Dade and Broward, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Sarasota, all of which were rated as more dangerous than Orlando.

But the “beautiful city,” which was ranked as the deadliest city in the country in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2021, shouldn't be satisfied with its lower rating, said Beth Osborne, transportation director at Smart Growth America. The decline reflects in part that other areas are simply deteriorating faster than Orlando.

“Everything has gotten so much worse,” she said. “We are facing a real catastrophe that requires a fundamental redesign of how we design.”

The report measures the safety of a metropolitan area by looking at the number of pedestrian deaths over a 5-year period and then adjusting that per 100,000 residents to rank the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country. In Central Florida – consisting of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties – 437 people died while walking between 2018 and 2022, or 3.26 people per 100,000.

In total, there are 67 more deaths than between 2013 and 2017 in the Orlando area.

Smart Growth America found that deaths nationwide have increased 75% since 2010. In 2022, the latest year for which totals are available, 7,522 Americans died while walking, roughly the population of Belle Isle.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report found that 67,336 pedestrians were injured in 2022 and that pedestrian collisions accounted for more than 137,000 emergency room visits between 2021 and 2023.

“If 20 people fell out of the sky every day, we would have shut down the airline industry,” said Calvin Gladney, president and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Unfortunately, we have built an automobile-centric culture in this country … and for some reason we believe that's the cost of doing business.”

The Volusia County area – defined as the Deltona, Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach areas – was the state's deadliest metropolitan area, with 134 deaths, or 3.96 per 100,000 residents. Memphis was the country's most dangerous region, with 343 deaths, or 5.14 per 100,000 residents, from 2018 to 2022.

Smart Growth America has long argued that the horrifying death toll is due to road design and construction, pointing out that for generations this country has emphasized wide roads that encourage drivers to drive faster, thereby increasing the number of fatal crashes.

There are indications that there are local efforts to change this.

For example, last year the Florida Department of Transportation completely redesigned a dangerous section of Orange Blossom Trail from Holden Avenue to 34th Street, where nine people were killed and 14 others were seriously injured between 2018 and 2023. The changes include flashing lights, raised crosswalks, lighting and fencing to force pedestrians to cross the crosswalks.

And on Robinson Street along Lake Eola Park, FDOT is planning a drastic redesign that will reduce speeds and create safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

The report found that state highways are among the deadliest roads in the country, with 66% of all traffic fatalities in the 101 largest metropolitan areas occurring on such roads. Drivers tend to drive faster on these roads than on city and rural roads.

“This is a crisis that is reaching epidemic proportions,” Gladney said. “We should not accept as part of American culture that people are dying and getting injured just while they are on the move.”

rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com

Anna Harden

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