DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) says 16 people have been hit walking near or across roadways this year in Okaloosa County, Florida.
The most recent, a 41-year-old man was killed while crossing Santa Rosa Boulevard Sunday night. FHP says a car traveling west on HWY 98 on Okaloosa Island hit the man as he walked North across the road, there is no information about whether he was using a designated crosswalk.
“It’s kind of contributed to Day Light Savings,” said FHP Public Affairs Officer Jason King. “It gets darker quicker but we still have people having to walk to work, drive to work, or cycle and it’s darker. Motorists aren’t kind of paying attention and the pedestrian’s arent paying attention.”
October is Pedestrian Safety Awareness month, FHP says the later months seem to bring more pedestrian-related accidents.
“We realize between September and I believe February during the time change when it gets darker earlier, we see a 30 percent increase in accidents involving pedestrians,” said King.
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office reports 11 pedestrian crashes so far in 2021. The Fort Walton Beach Police Department reports nine more incidents and one fatality to that total of pedestrian crashes this year, which is more than the 2020 and 2018 numbers.
Fort Walton Beach statistics:
- Pedestrian Crashes: 9 in 2018, 6 in 2020, and 9 in 2021
- Pedestrian Fatalities: 0 in 2018, 2 in 2020, and 1 in 2021.
HWY 98 is a busy road, whether it’s tourist season or not. A recent video provided to WKRG News 5 shows a driver barely missing a man crossing the highway near Destin Harbor this month. In the video, the man is yards away from multiple crosswalk areas.
“Yeah, that was just all wrong,” said King. “Gives you a little bit of chill bumps, because it’s like that is what we’re seeing. Motorists traveling down the road minding their own business doesn’t appear to be speeding or distracted, and here comes a pedestrian with kind of dark clothing, nothing reflective and then stops in front of him.”
According to the state reporting system Signal4analytics, Okaloosa County as a whole is reporting 5 fatalities this year with walkers and bicyclists. As of this post, 96 people have been hit so far in 2021, 15 of those with serious injuries.
FHP is reporting 16 pedestrians hit in Okaloosa County this year and 13 bicyclists.
“Believe it or not you can be cited for a pedestrian violation in traffic,” said King. “Take that sidewalk down 1,500 feet to the proper crosswalk and utilize it safely. You may win the battle far as I made it across the road, but if a car hits you, you lose.”
Tips for Pedestrians:
Wear bright and reflective clothing at night. If you need to step off the sidewalk, walk into oncoming traffic so you can see what is in front of you.
Tips for Drivers:
Slow down near crosswalks as a precaution. Even if you do not hit the person, FHP encourages you to call *FHP(347) and report people walking across roadways illegally.
Tips for local cities:
Change yellow lighting signals to fluorescent yellow lighting. Use reflective pain for crosswalks and roadways.
FHP says there were 8,107 pedestrian-related crashes state-wide in 2020, with 712 fatalities.