The Florida roadway known as ”Bloody 98” lived up to its nickname in a map compiled for a study on pedestrian traffic fatalities.
“Dangerous by Design,” a study by Smart Growth America, reviewed pedestrian traffic fatalities from 2003 to 2012. U.S. Highway 98 was the local roadway with the highest number of pedestrian fatalities, according to a map compiled by the study.
“The State of Florida probably should look at it as a wake-up call,” said Mary Bo Robinson, director of transportation with the West Florida Regional Planning Council.
The Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin area had the highest percentage of pedestrian deaths on “arterial roads” for metro areas in Florida at 86.8 percent.
According to the study, arterial roads are designed wide, fast and flat to let vehicles drive with minimal delay over long distances.
U.S. 98 is an arterial road. Beal Parkway, Eglin Parkway, and Racetrack Road in Fort Walton Beach and James Lee Boulevard in Crestview are examples of minor arterial roads.
Often, the design of these roads is not conducive to pedestrian travel.
“We need to move people and we need to move freight,” Robinson said. “And one way we need to look at it, some folks are going to be walking even if it’s just to their car.”
There are a number of things that can be done to correct this, Robinson said. It sounds simple, but separating bicyclists and pedestrians from cars is the first step. “When your city’s designed for automobiles, sometimes it’s hard for folks to think how we can go back and replan it,” Robinson said.
Landscaped buffers, bike lanes, widened sidewalks, and using parked cars as buffers can create that separation, according to the study. Transportation planners and engineers can also use design elements like pedestrian countdown signals, restricting right turns on red, and back-in angled parking, the study recommended.
Streets should be designed to be slower -- speeding is the leading cause of preventable deaths. This can mean lower speed limits, especially for residential areas.
Destin Councilman Jim Wood, who moderated this week’s Emerald Coast Transportation Symposium in Pensacola, said they were trying to educate participants and find the best practices in transportation safety.
“We need to make local roads the safest that we can for all users of our transportation system,” he said.