As winter approaches, Palm Beach County and South Florida are experiencing the snowbird effect. The year-round residents are seeing more and more of the people from the cold weather states who spend October through March in the Sunshine State.
When you combine the snowbird effect with the general growth of population and a steady flow of tourists, you end up with a lot of traffic congestion. According to a report in the Sun Sentinel, tourism officials estimated 6.6 million people would visit Palm Beach County in 2015 alone.
With a large number of people sharing the roads - including many drivers who might be trying to find their way to a beach or a mall, you're going to see more accidents. While every accident should be taken seriously, an experienced West Palm Beach attorney knows that pedestrian accidents in particular tend to involve severe and fatal injuries.
According to the state Department of Transportation, Palm Beach County is ranked as the third highest county in Florida for accidents involving pedestrians. The state of Florida is listed as one of the top 10 most dangerous places for pedestrians, according to the DOT.
Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Happen?
Accidents involving cars and people on foot or bicycles tend to happen at or near crosswalks - locations where pedestrians tend to think they are safe. It's critical for drivers to look out for pedestrians at all times. If you're a pedestrian about to step into a crosswalk, don't assume that the vehicle will see you and stop. Try to make eye contact and make sure the driver sees you and is prepared to give you the right of way. In many cases, we have heard from drivers who said they never saw the pedestrian they struck down.
How to Make Streets Safer for Pedestrians
The Sun-Sentinel recently published a report about the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization's idea to create a county-wide policy called "complete streets." This will make it safer and easier for pedestrians to negotiate the busy South Florida roads.
West Palm Beach has had a complete streets policy for more than 10 years, but not all communities in the county have adopted it.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that officials want to make pedestrians a top priority when creating and retrofitting roads. People alone in cars would be the lowest priority, following those who use bicycles, public transit and drivers of commercial vehicles.
Placing the focus on the pedestrian for future planning goals will make Palm Beach County a safer place for residents, snowbirds and tourists alike.
The planning organization's proposal calls for things like buffered cycling lanes which adds extra space between cars and bikes; wider sidewalks; traffic signals that change more frequently so pedestrians don't have to wait a long time to cross roads; and midblock crossings, among other proposals.
We welcome ideas that look at protecting everyone who shares the roads in South Florida. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that Florida as the second-highest pedestrian death rate per capita in the country - a statistic no one wants to claim.