CLEARWATER – A common misconception is that most car-vs.-pedestrian accidents occur when a careless driver runs down a law-abiding pedestrian. But recent studies have shown that the opposite is frequently true.
“Many pedestrian-related crashes and fatalities are due to mistakes by the pedestrian, not the motorist,” a Clearwater Police Department memo to the Clearwater City Council explains. “Failure to cross at traffic signals or designated crosswalks has been cited as one of the major causes of pedestrian fatalities. Other common causes of pedestrian-related crashes in Clearwater can be directly related to risky behavior and impaired judgment on the part of the pedestrian. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists all need to be better educated about the rules of the road and the importance of following them. Education of the public is essential if these issues are ever to be resolved and a reduction in pedestrian and bicycle accidents (achieved).”
Trying to reach that goal, the city council on March 6 granted Police Chief Tony Holloway permission to accept a $29,036 High Visibility Enforcement Grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.
“This is for us to enforce pedestrian and bicycle traffic regulations,” Holloway said.
Between Oct. 1, 2012 and Sept. 29, 2013, Clearwater experienced two pedestrian deaths and 50 pedestrian injuries, five fatalities and 46 injuries of bicyclists, and 190 incidents of collisions between pedestrians and bicyclists. Statewide in 2011, traffic crashes killed 492 and injured 6,194 pedestrians, and resulted in 120 deaths and 4,632 injuries of bicyclists.
“Based on the National Highway Traffic Administration Traffic Safety Facts, these rates (are) nearly double the national average for pedestrians and nearly triple the national average for bicyclists,” the state’s contract with the Clearwater Police Department explains.
Holloway plans to use the state grant for a six-month program of education and enforcement in hopes of bringing down those numbers. The program is expected to run from now through Aug. 15. Clearwater cops will team up with the city’s Traffic Engineering Division, Clearwater Americorps, the Clearwater and Clearwater Beach Chambers of Commerce, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the Jolley Trolley.
Approximately 15 cops with special training in traffic enforcement will concentrate their efforts in 11 areas where there have been problems in the past. These are: the Memorial Causeway Bridge, the beach roundabout and its associated crosswalks, the 400 block of Mandalay Avenue, the 300 and 400 blocks of South Gulfview Boulevard, the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Gulf Boulevard, the South Missouri Avenue corridor, the Chestnut Street corridor, the Court Street corridor, the 400 to 800 blocks of Cleveland Street, the 1300 to 2400 blocks of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard at U.S. 19.
The police memo explains that the program “will measure crash data in the target areas at the beginning and conclusion of the grant period and compare the figures to determine if the number of pedestrian/bicycle crashes has been reduced.”
In approving the grant, the councilmembers identified the area between the marina and South Beach as an accident waiting to happen as beach-going pedestrians play chicken with cars entering or exiting the roundabout.
“The problem is intersections,” Vice Mayor Paul Gibson said. “But the bigger problem is between intersections. I’m surprised that nobody has been hit yet. They seem to think that they’re immune from being hit.”