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St. Pete police trying to prevent roadway deaths

Posted: 11:17 PM, Jan 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-12 23:17:53-05
Walking or riding a bicycle along Tampa Bay area roads is one of the most dangerous things you can do.
 
The region set records in 2015 for the number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths. There were 51 pedestrians killed in Hillsborough County last year.  In Pinellas County, five pedestrians and one cyclist died in accidents.  Another 12 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in crashes within St. Petersburg.
 
Right now, St. Petersburg Police Department is on a mission to educate the public about pedestrian and bicycle safety in hopes of preventing those tragedies.
 
John Martny and Alan Pfleider were a little surprised to get stopped by police Tuesday while walking in St. Petersburg.  But moments before, they had stopped right in the middle of Fourth Street, then ran across to the other side.
 
"I thought it was fine corner to corner, but apparently it's corner to corner as long as you don't stop in the middle," Martny said.
 
They've seen a lot of accidents along busy stretches of road downtown.  They think drivers need to slow down and pay better attention to people walking and biking.
 
"We have to watch out for ourselves because they're not going to do it," Pfleider said.
 
St. Petersburg police say too many cyclists and pedestrians are dying each year and a lot of the accidents have one thing in common.
 
"Many times it's simply citizens not obeying the law," Sgt. Terri Nagle said.
 
Officers are using grant money to hit the streets, hand out lots of brochures and talk to people about the rules of the road.  Their main goal during the education campaign is to give both drivers and pedestrians a better view of the common mistakes they're making, in hopes of saving lives.
 
"A lot of times people just don't use crosswalks.  We also have a lot of vehicles that don't yield to pedestrians who are legally crossing roadways," Nagle said.
 
A lot of people also wear dark clothing, making them hard to see, especially at night.  That's why officers are also giving out free bike lights. They hope their efforts will help everyone pay more attention and stay safe on the roads.
 
St. Petersburg Police Department will be continuing their education campaign for the next few months. Then they'll start writing tickets to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers who break the law.
 
Many who live in the area also hope the campaign sparks a conversation about safety improvements that can be made along roads, like better lighting or signage, to help avoid deadly accidents.