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It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian in Pinellas County, traffic report says

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County has the highest fatality rate for pedestrians involved in traffic crashes among urbanized Florida counties, according to an annual report of traffic crashes.

The 2016 Traffic Crash Trends and Conditions Report was presented Wednesday to Forward Pinellas. It also showed Pinellas with a pedestrian fatality rate that was 80 percent higher than the national average over the five-year period from 2011-2015.

When compared with Palm Beach, Orange, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Broward counties, Pinellas ranked No. 1 in pedestrian fatalities three years during 2011-2015. Pinellas ranked No. 2 one of those years and No. 3 the other year. The national average of pedestrian deaths for that period was 1.49 pedestrian fatalities per capita; Pinellas had 3.5 per capita.

The report also noted that “an alarming number of pedestrian fatalities are occurring at night along illuminated roadways. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of the pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were walking across roads at mid-block that were illuminated from overhead streetlights.”

The information should act as a call to action, said John Tornga, a Dunedin commissioner who serves on the Forward Pinellas board. Forward Pinellas is the countywide land use and planning agency that was formed when the Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Pinellas Planning Council merged.

Whit Blanton, Forward Pinellas executive director, said balancing pedestrian safety and land use is a balancing act. Limiting access to roadways is the safest for pedestrians, he said. But, limiting access is bad for economic development because limited access makes it harder for pedestrians to have easy access to businesses.

Among other highlights of the report:

In 2015:

— 28,501 traffic crashes occurred in Pinellas County and were reported to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, up 7 percent from 2014.

— 101 people died as a result of traffic incidents, down 15 percent from 2014.

— 4,426 people were injured, up 4 percent from 2014.

— The estimated economic cost of crashes, injuries and fatalities in Pinellas County: about $1.54 billion.

— The intersection of Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. (SR 60) and Belcher Road in Clearwater was the most dangerous intersection in 2015 with an intersection crash rate of 5.23 crashes per million vehicles that entered the intersecion.

— The segment of Live Oak Street from Alt. 19 to Safford Avenue in Tarpon Springs was the most dangerous corridor in 2014 with a road segment crash rate of 77.42 crashes per million entering vehicles.

On an average day in 2015:

— There were 77 crashes

— There were 0.27 deaths and 12 injuries

— Average daily cost in Pinellas County: about $4.22 million.

2015 distracted driving statistics:

— 3,164 crashes

— Nine deaths and 569 injuries

— Estimated economic cost in Pinellas County: about $72.3 million

Key findings from the report:

— Teen driving traffic crashes continue to rise. Over the past five years (2011 to 2015), the number of crashes involving drivers age 15 to 19 has increased from 1,616 to 3,128 (up 63%).

— Impaired driving traffic fatalities continue to decrease. In 2015, Pinellas County experienced a total of 24 traffic fatalities because of driver impairment, a 57 percent decrease since 2011.

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