PCB city leaders work to improve pedestrian safety

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:54 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - As pandemic restrictions eased off and more people started leaving the house again, the number of pedestrians hit and killed in Florida spiked. According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, there was a roughly 31% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the state from 2020 to 2021.

According to The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Bay County has seen seven pedestrian deaths so far this year.

While only one of those fatalities was in Panama City Beach, officers said they have responded to at least 60 pedestrian-involved accidents.

“It’s just sheer volume of people walking around. And you know very limited amount of walking space on the main road, front beach road. there’s just not a lot of sidewalk,” Panama City Beach Police Lieutenant James Smeby said.

It’s a problem the city has been working to fix through Community Redevelopment Area projects.

“We’re going to be doing sidewalks down the entirety of Front Beach. We’re trying to look to increase the technology and the sophistication of our crosswalks to provide better signaling for when people want to cross over,” Panama City Beach Councilman Michael Jarman said.

Some portions of Front Beach Road are already under construction. The section running from Lullwater Drive to Hills Road has orange barricades that new sidewalks will soon replace.

The massive project is being done in sections, eventually enhancing roughly 20 miles of roadways.

“Well, the need is just safety,” Jarman said. “If it’s possible to make people safer when they cross the street, we’ll look into it and see if we can make it happen.”

Officers said it’s a step in the right direction, but you still need to be careful walking around.

“The main advice is don’t assume that they see you,” Smeby said. “Especially at night time, it’s dark and just they even by distracted driving or you blend in with the surroundings because of your dark clothing or whatever.”

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