SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port area is the sixth most dangerous place for pedestrians in the U.S., according to a report released Wednesday by a watchdog group.
“Dangerous by Design 2021” is a project spearheaded by Smart Growth America, a nonprofit coalition of public interest organizations and transportation professionals.
Florida was the most dangerous state in the country, the report said, and Sarasota ranked fourth in the state, behind Orlando, Titusville and Daytona Beach.
The report cites research that links sprawling growth patterns to higher rates of both traffic-related deaths for people walking and traffic-related deaths overall.
Florida officials are taking issue with the project’s findings, questioning its methodology. “The Dangerous by Design report considers select data points, which ultimately results in an inaccurate portrayal of the safety conditions across Florida’s transportation system,” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault said in a statement Wednesday.
“In addition, the report compares states and metropolitan areas across the nation, but does not take into account important geographic and demographic nuances, resulting in a one-size-fits-all methodology for the assessment. Safety is at the root of all we do, and I am proud that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently recognized Florida’s robust pedestrian and bicycle safety program as a national gold standard program.”
The report says over the past decade (2010-2019), the number of people struck and killed by drivers nationwide while walking increased by 45 percent. The four most recent years on record (2016-2019) are now the four most deadly years for pedestrian deaths since 1990. During this 10-year period, 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. In 2019, the 6,237 people struck and killed is the equivalent of more than 17 people killed per day.
The report ranks the 100 most populous metro areas by their “Pedestrian Danger Index,” which accounts for differences in population and walking rates. The top 20 most dangerous are:
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida
- Bakersfield, California
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
- Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida
- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
- Jackson, Mississippi
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
- Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida
- Greenville-Anderson, South Carolina
- Stockton-Lodi, California*
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas*
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, Georgia*
- El Paso, Texas*
(Metros marked with an *asterisk were not in the top 20 in the 2019 report.) The 20 states with the highest Pedestrian Danger Index ratings are (starting with the highest) Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, Delaware, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, California, Missouri, Maryland, Michigan and Kentucky.
“Our current approach to safety should be judged on the merits; and by any measure, it has been a complete failure,” said Beth Osborne, transportation director for Smart Growth America. “While transportation agencies have done much to avoid doing so, we urgently need to change the way we design and build roads to prioritize safety, not speed, as we currently do.”