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With Pedestrian Deaths On Rise, Pinellas County Emphasizes Street Safety

traffic at busy intersection
Safe Streets Pinellas
Forward Pinellas is trying to reduce traffic accidents by implementing Vision Zero strategies.

Forward Pinellas hosted a virtual presentation highlighting the county’s traffic safety issues, as well as potential solutions to help reduce injuries and deaths.

The United States saw a 45% increase in the number of people struck and killed while walking between 2010 and 2019.

And, according to data from Safe Streets Pinellas, an average of two people are killed or severely injured a day on Pinellas County roadways.

In fact, on the same night that the county hosted a Zoom meeting about traffic safety, a 16-year-old bicyclist in Clearwater was critically injured in a hit-and-run incident.

Forward Pinellas planner Sarah Caper spoke Tuesday evening about the county’s efforts to help curb traffic accidents, which includes the implementation of Vision Zero strategies.

“Vision Zero is a transportation safety philosophy,” said Caper. “It’s based on the idea that it’s not okay for anyone to lose their life for the sake of mobility.”

The program has a goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries. It does so by emphasizing a different approach to street safety — one that doesn’t treat human error as an inevitable side effect of transportation, but instead utilizes it.

“We know that humans make mistakes, and we need to incorporate our engineering and planning to account for that,” Caper added.

Safe Streets’ strategy — outlined in its 2021 Action Plan —- would see all traffic deaths and severe injuries reduced to zero in Pinellas County by the year 2045.

Caper says that the county has already begun to implement some of these tactics.

For example, a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) was installed where the Duke Energy Trail crosses Nursery Road after a Clearwater woman was struck and killed while bicycling there in 2019.

The system warns drivers of pedestrians, which helps give people walking or biking a better chance of safely crossing a road.

Other efforts include the resurfacing of roads in areas that experience more accidents, as well as studying the habits of drivers to help reconfigure the timing of some traffic signals.

The county has also gathered information on traffic incidents, which helps officials zero in on hotspots that are more likely to see accidents.

Vision Zero also heavily emphasizes the need to regulate speed in certain areas; they point to data which shows that about a third of all fatal crashes are caused by speeding.

“Speed plays a huge role in our severe injury and fatal crashes,” said Caper. “Think about it, if you get hit by something moving fast, your odds of surviving go down significantly.”

Caper talked about the need for the community to participate in order to see real change.

“It’s really important to engage the community and to have support on all levels from members of the public to elected officials,” she said.

I am a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News Intern for the spring 2022 semester; this is my second internship with the station.