Volusia County: The Most Dangerous Place for Pedestrians in the U.S.?
Volusia County in Florida has been spotlighted for its alarmingly high pedestrian fatality rates, prompting serious concerns and calls for action. Here’s an in-depth look at the issue and the measures being taken to address it.
The Grave Reality: Startling Statistics
Data from Smart Growth America reveals a distressing picture: the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach metropolitan area in Volusia County is the deadliest region in the U.S. for pedestrians. This finding is part of the 2022 Dangerous by Design report, which assessed data from 2009 through 2020, highlighting the gravity of the situation. In 2021 alone, 35 pedestrians or bicyclists lost their lives in traffic incidents in this area.
Florida’s Challenge: Statewide Pedestrian Danger
Florida ranks as the second-most-dangerous state for pedestrians in the country, just behind New Mexico. On average, there are 3.22 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people each year statewide. Volusia County’s situation is particularly dire, with 4.25 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people.
Target Zero: A Vision for Safer Roads
In response to these concerning trends, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), along with local municipalities, is championing the “Target Zero” plan. Inspired by Europe’s Vision Zero initiative, this plan focuses on transforming infrastructure and road culture to eliminate traffic-related fatalities.
Key strategies include investing in bike lanes, thinner driving lanes, more landscaping to discourage speeding, and increased crosswalks and sidewalks.
The Need for a Paradigm Shift
Heidi Simon, Director of Smart Growth America, emphasizes that current street designs prioritize vehicle movement over pedestrian safety. She advocates for a rethink in how roads accommodate all forms of transit, not just cars. This approach is crucial for creating thriving, safe communities.
Best Foot Forward: Volusia County’s Pedestrian Safety Program
Recognizing the severity of the issue, Volusia County leaders have launched the Best Foot Forward program. Partnering with Bike Walk Central Florida, this initiative focuses on four key areas: community education, low-cost engineering, high-visibility enforcement, and data evaluation.
The primary goal is to change driver behavior, especially regarding yielding at pedestrian crosswalks. This program is expanding from its successful implementation in nearby counties.
Effective Measures and Future Plans
The Best Foot Forward program will select 10 specific crosswalks for enforcement in Volusia County. Data collectors will assess driver compliance at these crosswalks to gauge the program’s effectiveness.
Remarkably, in areas where Best Foot Forward has been active, driver yield rates at crosswalks have risen from 17% to over 52%. The program, initially funded by the FDOT as part of its Target Zero Initiative, will be assumed by the county starting in 2026, with an annual cost of approximately $80,000.
Volusia County’s high pedestrian fatality rate is a critical issue that demands immediate attention. The adoption of the Best Foot Forward program, along with the broader Target Zero initiative, marks a significant step towards enhancing pedestrian safety. By focusing on infrastructure changes, community education, and behavior modification, there’s hope that Volusia County will transform from being the most dangerous area for pedestrians in the U.S. to a model of pedestrian safety.