JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Traffic deaths in the U.S. are continuing their historic decline. The newest statistics show they fell to the lowest level since 1949.
The numbers for 2011 indicate a 1.9 percent decrease with traffic deaths in general, but fatal crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians are up.
Nationally, fatalities rose 8.7 percent for bicyclists, 3 percent for pedestrians and 2.1 percent for motorcyclists.
In Florida, the statistics are even worse.
The Florida Highway Patrol says bicyclist fatalities increased by nearly 58 percent, motorcycle deaths are up 18 percent and teen deaths are up 7 percent.
So far this year, Jacksonville has had 28 pedestrians and nine bicyclists killed, but the tragedies have come in all northeast Florida counties.
One recent cyclist death involved 30-year-old Jared Bynum, an avid bicyclist. He was killed about 7:30 a.m. Oct. 7 when his bicycle was struck by a SUV on Nocatee Parkway in northern St. Johns County.
Paul McRae was a close friend of Bynum and his running coach.
"He was a great guy, one of those guys that if you were in a room with him you could know him for two minutes or 15 years, but he made sure to make you feel like he was solely intent to listen to you," McRae said.
McRae says drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings and look out for walkers and riders, especially in the early morning hours, a common time for people to be out exercising.
McRae said he's noticed more people are taking an interest in running and biking, with more attending races.
"People's sons, husbands, daughters, wives out there, and if you happen to hurt someone, then you've got to live with that for the rest of your life," McRae said.
FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan says troopers are working to try to make Florida's roads a safer place for cyclists and pedestrians through more aggressive traffic enforcement and awareness campaigns to alert drivers to the fatal statistics.
"It's an alarming rate: one in four crashes are preventable," Bryan said. "So if we can just be responsible while driving, some of these crashes will be reduced or eliminated."
Bryan said as of Tuesday, Florida has seen more than 13,000 pedestrian crashes and more than 8,000 cyclist crashes this year. He said there have been 81 fatal crashes in Jacksonville in 2012.
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