ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pedestrians continue to die at an alarming rate in Florida, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Preliminary numbers still being finalized shows that Florida has once again topped 600 pedestrian deaths in 2017, nearly exactly the same rate as 2016 and 2015.
The statistics show that efforts to educate drivers and pedestrians is making only a moderate impact at best.
"I see a lot of distracted drivers. Even though it's illegal there's plenty of texting going on," says Andrew Orr, an avid bicyclist in St. Petersburg who sees drivers make all kinds of mistakes.
"Their attention is diverted," says Orr. "And anything can happen. If something runs out in front of them, a child, or a ball, or dog, then they're going to hit them."
That's part of the reason Florida's Department of Transportation has funded another education effort in St. Pete, paying St. Petersburg police officers to hand out warnings notes to pedestrians, even "Jaywalkers" are being handed citations.
"Where someone is going to receive a citation is for something that's pretty egregious," says Sgt. Bill Burris, whose traffic team only cited about 5% of pedestrians they confronted for not following state laws.
"If they really put their lives in jeopardy, or force a driver to hit the brakes," for instance, he adds.
But Sgt. Burris plans to have his department increase the rate of fined handed out.
Three of the most common offenses, says Sgt. Burris, are drivers not stopping for pedestrians, bicyclists ignoring street lights, and pedestrians not using crosswalks.
The special pedestrian enforcement effort will run in downtown St. Pete for the next couple months.