Pedestrian deaths on the rise in Bay County

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 6:58 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Pedestrian deaths are up across the State of Florida and Bay County is no different. But many would agree, it feels like there are constantly new projects underway to make our area a more walkable destination.

While new crosswalks and brighter lights do improve pedestrian safety, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said sometimes it comes down to people just not being vigilant.

Pedestrian deaths continue to rise in Bay County. According to FHP, pedestrian fatals are up 70% over last year, from 7 to 12 deaths.

“It seems like we’re losing lives left and right,” Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Jason King said. “We’ve noticed that they are crossing the roadway at unlit or unmarked areas so they’re taking that choice upon themselves.”

It’s an upsetting statistic city leaders have been working to lower, starting with Panama City Beach’s CRA project on Front Beach.

“The sidewalk we have here is 10 ft wide so it’s considered a multi-use facility,” Corradino Group Assistant Program Manager Scott Passmore said. “It will allow for both low-speed bicycles and pedestrians to utilize that.”

Across the bridge, Panama City is working with the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Power and Light to brighten up the roads at night.

“Upgrade all of the high-pressure sodium lights up to the led lights. It’s a lot less electricity and is a lot brighter and provides for much more safety and illumination in the evening hours,” Panama City Public Works Director Jonathan Hayes said.

That’s just a small part of what the FDPT has been working on throughout the county. Resurfacing and widening projects are underway on U.S. 98, U.S. 231, S.R. 390, S.R. 388, and the construction of what will be S.R. 370.

But when it comes down to it, whether you’re a motorist or a pedestrian, you need to pay attention.

“Yes, we have motorists who seem to be distracted in their vehicles. Cellphones, radio, kids, eating, makeup, whatever the case may be. The other part is, were noticing pedestrians wearing dark clothing. Maybe crossing the street at areas that aren’t well-lit or marked for crossing,” King said.

Troopers want to remind everyone to stay alert. With the clocks turning back this weekend, it will be getting darker earlier, which also increases the risks for pedestrians.

Full list of FDOT’s pedestrian safety projects underway:

  • U.S. 98B (Beach Drive) from U.S. 98 (15th Street) to west of U.S. 231 (Harrison Avenue) Resurfacing Project: Added performed bicycle symbols on the roadway (shared bike path with vehicles) on Beck Avenue, 9th Street, and Beach Drive. Added six midblock crosswalks on Beach Drive. Two flashing pedestrian crossing signs each at Balboa Avenue, E. Caroline Boulevard, and Fortune Avenue. Improved signage throughout the project including: share the Road bicycle signage, reduced Speed Ahead (Your Speed xx) safety feature at Beach Drive/Flower Avenue intersection, pedestrian crossing ahead signage, vehicle Stop Here for pedestrian crossing, 10 mph turn signs at Beach Drive/Frankford Avenue intersection.
  • Resurfacing U.S. 231 (Harrison Avenue) from U.S. 98B (6th Street) to U.S. 98 (15th Street): Adding new pedestrian signals at 11th Street and 12th Street.
  • Resurfacing State Road (S.R.) 390 (East 14th Street) from east of S.R. 77 (Ohio Avenue) to U.S. 231: Adding a new pedestrian signal at C.R. 389 (East Avenue).
  • Multi-lane reconstruction of State Road (S.R.) 390 from 23rd Street in Panama City to east of Baldwin Road and from Jenks Avenue to State Road (S.R.) 77: New four-foot bicycle lanes, six-foot sidewalks, curb, and gutter are being constructed on both sides of the roadway.
  • Construction of a new two-lane road to be named State Road (S.R.) 370 (Gulf Coast Parkway) from U.S. 98 (Tyndall Parkway) to County Road (C.R.) 2315 (Star Avenue): Construction of a 10-foot multi-use path along the south side.
  • Resurfacing U.S. 98 (Panama City Beach Parkway), from the Walton County line to Heather Drive: A 10-foot multi-use path on the south side, a six-foot sidewalk on the north side, and a concrete barrier wall to continue the sidewalk across the eastbound bridge over Lake Powell.
  • Widening S.R. 388 from S.R. 79 to east of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport: A new twelve-foot shared-use path along the south side, and buffered bike lanes.

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