MAITLAND, Fla. – Walkers, runners and bicyclists always have the right of way on the roads; however, police warn if they are not crossing in a crosswalk they are at risk.
Too many drivers are distracted in Florida, making the Sunshine State No. 1 in the U.S. for pedestrian deaths, according to the 2019 “Dangerous By Design” report from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. The least safe region of Florida is the Orlando area.
Maitland Police Traffic Safety Officer Sarah Reardon said since January, 13 pedestrian have been killed in Orange County. Three bicycle riders were killed.
Statewide since the beginning of the year, 131 pedestrians and 24 bicyclists were killed.
In response, the Florida Department of Transportation began funding training for law enforcement agencies across the state to learn how to do High Visibility Enforcement or HVE.
The Maitland Police Department took advantage of the funding and sent eight officers to HVE training, including Reardon.
"It's a very bad problem," Reardon said.
Reardon said HVE focuses as much on reckless drivers as it does on pedestrians putting their own lives in danger, most of the time inadvertently or unknowingly.
"They're cutting in and out, people in the vehicles are having to slam on their brakes to allow them to cross when in all reality there's a crosswalk within a couple feet," Reardon said.
Several times a month, all eight officers focus on pedestrians in the areas of the city with the most traffic, like U.S. 17-92, State Road 414 and Maitland Avenue.
Reardon warns pedestrians they're taking their lives into their hands by trying to dart across traffic.
"It has everything to do with saving lives," Reardon said. "We're just educating them though, we're not trying to come out here and write citations, it's more of an education thing. We'd rather give them education because there's probably people who don't know, 'Oh I shouldn't be crossing the road at this point.'"
Reardon said often pedestrians are trying to save time but not walking over to a crosswalk or don't realize why it's against the law to jaywalk.
A warning and a reminder is changing their behavior, Reardon said.
"We're definitely getting results out here," Reardon said. "And when we make a traffic stop on a pedestrian, it's better to give them the education rather than presenting them with a citation."