Florida holds the top four on the list with the most dangerous places to walk in America.

The 2011 edition of the “Dangerous by Design” report has just been released by Transportation for America, which calculated the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) in metro areas around the country. Cities where people walk more have more pedestrian deaths, so the index plots the number of pedestrians who die against the number of people who walk.


The result is very bad news for Sun Belt pedestrians.

Of the 20 most dangerous places to walk, only one — Detroit — is north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The organization notes that the death rate per 100,000 population in the U.S. is 1.6, much higher than that in similarly wide-open countries such as Canada (1.1) and Australia (0.9). Much of the blame lies in the way cities — especially those in the South — have avoided the kind of infrastructure improvements that make streets safer for walking.

What kinds of streets are worst for pedestrians? The kinds every suburbanite has come to know very well: multiple lanes of high-speed traffic, lined with parking lots and drive-throughs, and short on sidewalks and crosswalks.

The group points out that the data, gathered from 2000 to 2009, show that senior citizens are especially vulnerable, dying at twice the rate of those under age 65.

Who Gets Hit by Cars?

About 12% of motor vehicle crash deaths each year involve pedestrians, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute.

If it seems that most of the pedestrians you observe taking risks in traffic are male, you are right, according to IIHS.

Pedestrians were almost always judged to be at fault in midblock and “intersection dash” accidents, in which pedestrians enter the path of traffic, according to a 2002 study of pedestrian deaths in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. People on foot were judged to be at fault 50% of the time compared to 39% for drivers.

Drivers are usually at fault in crashes where vehicles turned, backed up or went off the road.

Here’s how to avoid getting hit by cars when you’re walking:

*Wait and look. Always wait for the traffic signal to turn green before crossing the street, and even then, look around. “Every pedestrian who is hit by a car never saw the car coming,” says Thomas J. Simeone, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents accident victims. “That’s why they entered the roadway.”

*Dress to be seen. The crosswalk may not be the right place to make a fashion statement, but the clothing you choose can make a difference to your safety, says Stephanie Schwartz, the owner of Roadrunner Traffic School in Arizona. “Pedestrians can always help ensure their own safety by wearing lighter colors,” she says.

*Don’t wander into the street while walking next to the road. Use sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, it’s usually better to walk facing oncoming traffic. Also, stay away from freeways and restricted areas.

*Don’t cross the road at a curve. Make sure you cross where approaching drivers can see you clearly.

*Try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping onto the highway. It’s a mistake to assume that drivers always see you.

*Don’t walk near traffic while tipsy. Alcohol and drugs can affect your ability to walk safely and make good judgments about traffic.

Dealing With Car Insurance Companies

If you are hit by a car while walking, you can file a car insurance claim against the driver. Just like a car-to-car accident, you want to try to get the driver’s information at the scene of the accident and make a police report.

*Gather all evidence that supports your car insurance claim, including the names of witnesses. Then notify the driver’s insurance company of your claim.

*If you have a no-fault auto insurance policy or are making a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (for a hit-and-run accident, for example), you must submit the claim to your own car insurance company.

*If the driver’s auto insurance isn’t enough to compensate you, you can hire an attorney and take the matter to court. You’re entitled to be “made whole” following an accident. That may include compensation for medical bills as well as pain and suffering, lost wages from work, emotional distress and property loss.

“People need to approach crossing a street as if their life depended on it, because it does,” says David Snyder, vice president and associate general counsel for the American Insurance Association. “All too often we take day-to-day activities, although hazardous, lightly.”

The Pedestrian Danger Index
Rank Metro area Deaths PDI
1 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 557 255
2 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 905 213
3 Jacksonville, FL 342 178
4 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 1,555 168
5 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 938 139
6 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 421 135
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