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New campaign aims to reverse deadly trend

Jacksonville is 3rd most dangerous large metro area for pedestrians, cyclists

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville is the third most dangerous large metro area when it comes to walking and biking.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office handled 942 pedestrian crashes between 2012 and the present. Of those, 188 of the pedestrian crashes were hit-and-runs and 91 were deadly.

The latest deadly pedestrian accident happened two days ago when 72-year-old Hiram Pastrana Morales was hit by an SUV and killed Wednesday evening on Southside Boulevard near Beach Boulevard. Police said he was not in the crosswalk.
 
The city said it is working to determine which intersections in the city most need crosswalks for pedestrians. That's just one part of the effort to get the number of pedestrian accidents down.

A local driving instructor said the rate of accidents also has a lot to do with drivers and pedestrians themselves.
 
"You've got to pay attention to pedestrians at all times because you don't know what they're going to do," said Bill Burkhart, a driving instructor with the Northeast Florida Safety Council.

He said drivers have to think one step ahead when they see pedestrians on the roadway.
 
"It could be somebody who's going to go a normal pace. They could run. They could take their time," Burkhart said. "So you know as a driver, I have to start realizing I have to start backing off or slowing down before I get to that person or get close enough to that person to give them time to get out of my way."
 
Burkhart said drivers have to be even more aware at intersections like the one where Morales was hit and killed.
 
"You've got a rise here that limits your sight as a driver and as a pedestrian so anybody coming over that at 45 miles per hour -- and you're out here -- they have a very limited amount of time to see you and react to you," Burkhart said.
 
Friends said Morales was walking from a nearby strip mall and was not in a crosswalk. Burkhart said areas with stores with no crosswalk in the immediate area pose an even higher risk for drivers.
 
"The deadly combination there is you know they're coming across in front of me because they're going to go the shortest route," Burkhart said. "If I'm not anticipating them because I don't see the convenience store, I don't expect them, then we've got a deadly combination coming together."
 
It's a combination the city of Jacksonville is trying to avoid by enforcing traffic laws, educating pedestrians and determining what pedestrians really need. The city started a bike and pedestrian safety coalition and councilwoman Lori Boyer started a crosswalk initiative.
 
"The city is working closely with her and her staff and participate in meetings and the planning of where to install additional pedestrian features at crossings and maybe even the introduction of brand new crossings at certain locations," said Jim Robinson, director of Public Works.
 
The coalition will be meeting on Thursday. In the meantime, Boyer is still gathering information from people living here in Jacksonville about where crosswalks are needed most.