ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Sunshine State had the nation's second-worst rate of pedestrian deaths last year. As 2016 comes to an end, Florida continues to be one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians.
In the City of St. Petersburg alone, there have been 14 pedestrian fatalities since the beginning of the year. Three of them happened this month. The St. Petersburg Police Department took to the streets in December to educate people about the dangers of jaywalking and other safety issues.
"We're at 3rd Avenue South and 3rd Street South," said Sergeant Edward Borelli on December 1 when he and his team of officers conducted their first educational enforcement in front of Publix. "We're just educating folks to pay attention to the rules and follow them."
"Hi ma'am, did you know you just jaywalked?" asked Sgt. Brown to a group of three people who walked across 3rd Street South without the pedestrian walk signal.
One woman was on her cell phone and walked across 3rd Street South while the traffic signal was green. An officer tried to talk to her, but she kept walking.
"As adults, we forget the things we learn and get busy in our lives and disregard rules, and ultimately at our own demise," said Sgt. Borelli.
Out of the 14 people who died walking in St. Petersburg this year, about 82% of them were not using crosswalks.
"It happens often. It does. It's just one more close encounter with a hospital stay and broken leg, you know?" said Nicholas Koulyanoa, a downtown resident.
"Basically drivers just aren't paying attention. When I have the right of way, people blaze right through," said Nancy Milan, another downtown resident.
There are 3 unsafe habits that pedestrians need to break:
1. Not using crosswalks
2. Walking next to sidewalks, but not on them
3. Darting across the road and ignoring the pedestrian walk signals
There are 3 unsafe habits drivers need to break:
1. Turning without looking in the crosswalk
2. Distracted driving
Last year in Hillsborough County, 51 people died walking along the road. Polk and Sarasota counties each reported 13 pedestrian fatalities last year.
Here are some important reminders:
- If possible, only cross the street at a marked crosswalk or intersection
- Always obey traffic signals and walk/don't walk signs
- Never assume a driver sees you
- Watch out for turning vehicles
Starting in January, both St. Petersburg and Clearwater police departments will be handing out tickets to pedestrians and cyclists who don't follow the laws. One ticket is $62.50. This is part of an area-wide enforcement effort to help prevent pedestrian-involved crashes.