LARGO, Fla. — Dangerous decisions are putting thousands of walkers at risk. A Largo man remains hospitalized Friday and is fighting for his life at Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg after being hit near the intersection of 66th Street North and 126th Avenue N in Largo.
Police officers say the pedestrian who was hit wasn’t using the crosswalk.
Just feet from where he was hit Thursday night, spray painted circles on the pavement mark areas where other walkers have been hit, including 4 pedestrians who lost their lives. None of them used the crosswalk.
“It makes me angry," Beth Foote said with a flabbergasted tone. She works at Nail Art Lounge near the intersection where the crash happened. "It happens so often and it's preventable. That 10 feet of extra walking is worth your life. I promise!” she added.
Keith Sherburn, who works next door at Crystal Cave Pawn is equally upset because he watches every day as walkers cross mid-block. “The crosswalk has a button that stops traffic. You should use it so you don’t get hit by a car. My kids know how to use a crosswalk, why don't adults?” he asked.
We took their concerns to Forward Pinellas, the biggest pedestrian advocacy group in Pinellas County.
Whit Blanton, the executive director, tells us it is both the fault of pedestrians and drivers.
“It’s hard to ask someone to walk a quarter mile out of the way to cross at a crosswalk and yet we’ve designed these roads for high-speed traffic and that puts pedestrians in a perilous position,” he explained, adding that often drivers don't watch closely for pedestrians.
Blanton tells us Pinellas County is looking at 3 things to curb jaywalking.
1. Adding more mid-block crossings, which work better on narrower streets. The county has had success adding mid-block crossings at several locations along Gulf Boulevard.
2. Adding medians on busy roads so if pedestrians do cross mid-block, they have a safer place to wait out traffic.
3. Increased enforcement could be in the works. Pinellas County often gets federal grants to enforce jaywalking rules because of Florida's high pedestrian death and injury rate. Several bay area officers and deputies tell ABC Action News they plan to hand out tickets at $62.50 a pop in the near future, encouraging walkers to change their behavior.
Over the past five years, 3,050 walkers have been hit in Pinellas County. 75% of them were not in crosswalks, according to Forward Pinellas.
Larry Huffaker has lost friends to the dangerous behavior and hopes more walkers and bikers will follow his lead and diligently use crosswalks.
"These roads are dangerous enough! The crosswalk is here to protect you,” he said.