Florida is the “Sunshine State” but it is increasingly becoming known for its hazardous pedestrian environment. In our sunny state, pedestrians often share the road with bikes, cars, trucks, other pedestrians, motorcycles, delivery vehicles, large buses and RV’s. A recent article in Streetsblog.org cited studies, which show that pedestrian fatalities are increasing at an alarming rate in Florida. This fact is something we should all be concerned about and it is getting the attention of local media and legislators. Almost half of all annual pedestrian deaths occur in the “Sun Belt” states of Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California.
The latest report of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association shows U.S. pedestrian fatality numbers at an all-time high of 6,227 for last year. This is concerning because this fatality number is 35% higher than the same statistic was ten (10) years ago. It is interesting to note that while pedestrian deaths have risen, vehicular traffic deaths have declined in the same time period. Much of the blame for pedestrian fatality increases is placed on the relatively new popularity of the “SUV” vehicles. SUV’s have blind spots and require longer stopping distances. Other common fatality causes are distracted drivers and the rise of texting while driving.
Many of the rights of pedestrians in Florida are covered in Florida Statutes 316.130 and are summarized in detail by the Florida Law Enforcement Guide which is funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. Copies are available at www.fLLiberty.files.wordpress.com.
Under Florida Law, drivers of vehicles have a duty to exercise due care and to avoid collisions with pedestrians and bicycles. Drivers are required to stop to allow pedestrians in the crosswalk to safely cross. Further, they are required to exercise caution upon encountering children and incapacitated individuals.
Pedestrians also have certain specific rights and obligations in Florida. When sidewalks are provided, pedestrians are required to use the sidewalks (as opposed to the road). When sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are required to walk on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway. Pedestrians should use crosswalks when available, and they should obey all traffic signals and signs. Pedestrians should yield to vehicles except when legally in designated crosswalks.
In summary, Florida law requires both drivers and pedestrians to exercise due care and to look out for each other. Following are some “common sense” suggestions for pedestrian safety:
- Cross streets at designated crosswalks.
- Make eye contact with the driver at all crosswalks. Be sure they see you!
- Watch for turning vehicles before you cross.
- Be sure all lanes are clear at large crossings before beginning to cross the closest lane.
- Obey all traffic signals and signs.
- Avoid texting and other distractions.
- Look both ways and then look again.
- Remove headphones.
- Walk on the sidewalk facing traffic.
- Stay sober.
- Wear brightly colored clothes.
- Carry a flashlight at night.
- Be alert for “backup” lights in parking areas and in parallel parking lanes.
- Be sure to control your pets.
- Hold hands with minor children and the elderly at crosswalks.
- Look out for bicycles.
A pedestrian accident will likely involve the police, insurance companies, investigators, and lawyers. It may also involve both civil and criminal legal issues. The lawyers at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC have many years of experience dealing with pedestrian accidents and injuries. We are always available to help you and your loved ones with these issues. Please call our offices if you have any questions regarding this article and your rights as a pedestrian or a motorist.
- Florida Statute 316.130
- Florida Pedestrian Law Enforcement Guide