On average, two people are killed or seriously injured each day on Pinellas County roadways, a number that the Forward Pinellas Board and Safe Streets Pinellas is actively working to reduce to zero by 2045.
At Tuesday’s Pinellas Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution stating the county would be following the City of Tampa’s lead in adopting the Vision Zero program. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while also increasing safe and equitable mobility for all residents. Sweden was the first to adopt Vision Zero in the 1990s, and after gaining momentum across Europe it has been increasing in popularity in American cities.
Whit Blanton, Executive Director for Forward Pinellas, told commissioners that Safe Streets Pinellas has been building and planning the program for a year and that St. Pete Beach was the first community in the area to implement Vision Zero. He did not give statistics on how the program has affected traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the beach town that has a heavy fusion of vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
“We do have a serious injury and fatality problem on Pinellas County roadways,” said Blanton.
While Blanton acknowledged reducing all traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero was a lofty goal, he explained the target date was not until 2045 and a new safety target would be set every two years based on the current data. The idea is to beat the lowest numbers over the last five years. Currently Pinellas County would sit above that number.
“We’d like to get back to where we were in 2014-2015,” said Blanton.
Blanton said the first step is creating public awareness to danger zones. Safe Street Pinellas collects data from the Pinellas Crash Data Management System, currently focusing on the five- year period between 2015 and 2019. The numbers are used to create a myriad of analytics and integrated heat maps that are available on its website. Residents can zoom in to street level and see where accidents involving vehicles motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians occur.
The data is then used to develop a high injury network. This network identifies where accidents occur repeatedly, so that further analysis and countermeasures can be prioritized in that area. Safe Streets Pinellas will also be working closely with local governments and residents to identify these hot spots, and the organization wants to focus on protecting the most vulnerable – pedestrians and bicyclists.
Residents can offer feedback on the website, and different approaches will be taken for each area.
“It’s going to be the appropriate treatment in the appropriate locations,” said Blanton. “This is not a one size fits all solution.”
According to the website, there were 131,200 collisions reported in Pinellas County from 2015 to 2019. Of those, 3% resulted in fatalities or serious injuries. Out of the 4,200 collisions that resulted in death or serious injury, 60% involved vehicles only. Motorcyclists and pedestrians were the second highest group at 15%, and bicycle accidents accounted for 10%.
The maps also show that the majority of the worst locations for traffic fatalities and serious injuries are located in low income communities, areas with a high minority population, and those that fall into both categories.