NewsHillsborough County

Actions

Recent traffic crashes highlight calls for better pedestrian safety in Tampa Bay

Cars traffic
Posted at 9:18 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-27 08:15:25-04

TAMPA, Fla. — It was a deadly day on the road in Tampa Bay.

There were at least five accidents involving walkers and a biker. Three of those accidents ended in death.

It's a familiar story for Yaica Irizarry, who lost her son in a crash in October.

"You think to yourself, what a sad thing. But until it hits home, you don't think about how actually unsafe these roads are," she said.

According to Signal Four Analytics, a crash statistics database, Florida has seen more than 432,000 crashes this year.

Eight of the state's 10 deadliest road stretches are in Tampa Bay, according to Moneygeek.com.

"When I heard of the incident that happened two months right after my son, it just kind of lit a fire under me, and I said we have to do something because this is not fair," said Irizarry.

Irizarry lobbied for sidewalks along the road her son was killed on and others throughout the rest of Lakeland. She eventually saw results.

"I am pleased with the fact that they heard us and that they're pushing forward with a sidewalk. It was a fight, to say the least. But I believe that if you keep on pushing for something, at the very least, you're going to get heard," she added.

Irizarry said there's still work to be done.

Signal Four shows 42 walkers and bikers have died in traffic crashes in Hillsborough County this year; another 111 were seriously injured.

In Polk County, 16 deaths and 36 serious injuries in Polk.

In Pinellas County, 26 deaths and 89 serious injuries.

"I think right now there's a tendency to look at the street as something only drivers are allowed to use," said Emily Hinsdale.

Emily Hinsdale is hoping to break that mindset through her work with Walk Bike Tampa.

The group works closely with local government and community members to help walkers and bikers feel safer on Tampa's streets.

"We have been working very hard with the Tampa City Council to change the sidewalk code so that we can get more sidewalks installed around the city of Tampa. That's a work in progress," she said. "We've also been working with the board of County Commissioners urging them to commit to spending more on some of our high injury. Roadways through the city of Tampa, that are owned by the county, put some more money towards specifically safety improvements."

One group Hinsdale feels is particularly vulnerable is Tampa's kids.

"Children are required by law to go to school, but we don't provide a way for them to get there. We don't even provide a safe way for them to get there," said Hinsdale.

In Florida, children who live two miles or closer to school aren't allowed to ride the bus.

Hinsdale said many Florida schools on are on main roads yet lack proper sidewalks and lighting.

Hearing of Ethan Weiser's death Friday morning on his way to school further fuels what Hinsdale is pushing for.

"It's, of course, always painful to hear about somebody's loss of life or serious injury on our area roads. I think we see it as a push to do more, to keep working, to keep trying to make the improvements that we can to always ask for and never settle, never stop until we do reach zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads," she said.