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Florida Wants to Lower Speed Limits, Because Florida

By: Bridget ClerkinAugust 10, 2017
Drivers kill more pedestrians in Florida cities than anywhere else in the country. Could lowered speed limits help?

Florida may famously be home to a large number of retirees, but that hasn’t stopped speeding from running rampant on the state’s roads—and the issue is becoming dangerous in a hurry.

The Sunshine State has a dark record when it comes to pedestrian deaths, counting 649 such fatalities last year alone. In 2017, it’s not faring much better, already recording 318 pedestrian deaths as of August 2, according to the state’s Capitol News Service.

In fact, 8 of the top 10 deadliest cities for pedestrians in the entire country can be found in Florida: Cape Coral; Palm Bay; Orlando; Jacksonville; Deltona; Lakeland; Tampa; and North Port. And just missing out on the top 10? Miami, which ranked 11th most dangerous for walkers and bikers out of the top 104 biggest metro areas nation-wide.

Part of the issue may be the state’s population boom, which coincided with euphoric post-World War II urban planning that envisioned a world where cars were king, spreading everything out and making automobiles a necessity to get around.

Another issue is the sheer economic demographics of the state, Emiko Atherton, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, told Bloomberg News.

“The people who are walking are doing it because they have to, not because they want to,” she said.

Regardless of the reason, getting the issue in check has also been a challenge for Florida, with several attempts by state lawmakers to bring down speed limits struggling to stick, and a vote to make limits even higher going through in 2014.

Now, the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is weighing in on the subject, contemplating the reduced speed limit as part of its “Complete Streets” program, a group of policies intended to make getting around safer there, regardless of the method of travel.

Along with slower roads, the plan lays out ideas for wider sidewalks, more bicycle lanes and narrower streets, another plan meant to curb speeding.

The DOT says its final implementation plan will be released in November, but for those currently in danger on Florida’s sleek streets, that may not be fast enough.

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