Fatal car crashes in the Tampa Bay region have been a source of public concern for decades. Yet, the numbers continue to dampen hopes that we will experience any significant reduction in the near future. As of last year, Tampa Bay holds the dubious distinction of ranking near the top in fatal car accidents in the country.
When we consider the number of pedestrians killed as a result of car accidents, the news is even worse. In early January, Smart Growth America (SGA) released its biennial Dangerous by Design report, ranking walkability in the 104 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. on a “Pedestrian Danger Index” (PDI), based on the number of local commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region was ranked second most dangerous metropolitan area in the U.S. in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and came in seventh place in the 2016 report — with over 821 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period through 2014. Florida cities claim the top seven most deadly spaces on the 2016 SGA report, with Tampa’s neighboring Cape Coral-Ft. Myers area ranked deadliest in the nation.
“These aren’t just numbers that are represented. They are human beings who may be a mother, father, daughter or son. These are your neighbors. These are people who are loved. It’s devastating. It’s costly. It’s life-altering for entire communities of people,” says Hillsborough MPO Executive Planner Gena Torres.
In spite of these statistics, there is no sense of urgency to fix this serious issue. The resources to identify the problem roads and intersections are available and the Hillsborough MPO can identify these areas which include Florida Department of Transportation’s District 7 (Citrus, Hillsborough, Hernando, Pinellas and Pasco counties). Thanks to this information, local officials can identify areas in which pedestrians and bicyclists are in the greatest danger.
In the final analysis, it will take more than information to reduce the number of Tampa Bay fatal car accidents and pedestrian/bicycle involved fatalities. It requires a concerted effort from local, state, and federal elected officials to fund projects to improve our roadways and make it safer for everyone to travel or recreate in Tampa Bay. Until such a time, we will continue to be mentioned in lists naming the country’s most dangerous roads. A distinction we should be trying to avoid at all costs.