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The Role of Florida State University in Tallahassee’s Pedestrian Safety

Personal Injury

Pedestrian safety is a concern on and around university campuses across Florida. In 2020, a student at Florida State University (FSU) was tragically killed when she was struck by a driver in the crosswalk of the 1000 block of West Tennessee Street, and another student suffered serious injuries in a similar incident just a week later. Since then, FSU and its University Police Department have taken new measures to promote pedestrian safety—and to reduce the risk of students, faculty and visitors needing to hire a Tallahassee personal injury lawyer to help them recover just compensation for their losses.

In recognition of its efforts, the FSU University Police Department placed first in traffic safety in the Champions Category of the 2020 Florida Law Enforcement Challenge Awards. As stated on FSU’s website, this award recognizes the department’s efforts in several areas, including “distracted driving enforcement, impaired driving enforcement, . . . pedestrian and bicycle enforcement, and speed and aggressive driving enforcement, as well as the department’s training of officers in these areas.”

5 Steps Universities and Police Departments Can Take to Promote Pedestrian Safety

What can universities and their police departments do to help keep pedestrians safe? Here are some steps that can be taken both on and off campus to help minimize the risk of serious and fatal pedestrian accidents:

1. Identify High-Risk Intersections

A key first step toward minimizing the risk of pedestrian accidents is to identify high-risk intersections. Universities and police departments need to know where to focus their efforts in order to ensure that their efforts are as effective as possible.

Many of these intersections are likely to be located downtown, near campus, or near the school’s football stadium or basketball arena. This was the case with both of the pedestrian accidents involving FSU students in 2020. However, universities and police departments should not make assumptions, but instead rely on data that pinpoints the locations that present the highest risk levels for pedestrians.

2. Ensure Proper Timing of Traffic Lights and Crosswalk Signals

At controlled intersections, it is critical that traffic lights and crosswalk signals are appropriately timed. If a traffic light or crosswalk signal is even just a few seconds off, this can have a dramatic impact on pedestrian safety. Traffic studies can be performed to determine proper timing for vehicle traffic in order to minimize backups, and crosswalk signals should give pedestrians enough time to cross safely at a normal walking pace.

3. Install Crosswalks and Signs Notifying Drivers of Possible Pedestrians

Under Florida law, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians who are lawfully in a crosswalk. Crosswalks also signal to drivers that pedestrians may be present and preparing to cross once the light turns red. Studies have shown that crosswalks can reduce the number of pedestrian accidents significantly, and that “crosswalks are most effective when they are well lit at night and there is nearby signage alerting drivers they are coming up on a crosswalk.”

4. Position Officers at High-Risk Locations During Busy Times

From the morning rush to get to class to Saturday afternoons during the football season, there are several times when pedestrian traffic on university campuses is especially high. During these times, positioning officers at high-risk locations to control traffic can help to reduce the risk of pedestrian accidents significantly. This is true even at intersections with signals and crosswalks.

5. Increase Traffic Violation Enforcement in Areas with Pedestrian Traffic

University police departments (and other police departments) can also help reduce the number of pedestrian accidents on and around campuses by increasing traffic violation enforcement in areas with high pedestrian traffic. Not only does ticketing violators help deter these individuals from breaking the law again, but it also serves a broader deterrent effect as members of the community learn that enforcement is a risk.

How Students, Faculty and Visitors Can Help Protect Themselves While Walking

Along with taking the steps discussed above, universities and police departments can also work to reduce pedestrian accidents by informing students, faculty and visitors of what they can do to help keep themselves safe. For example, to minimize their risk of being hit by passing vehicles, individuals who are walking on and off campus can do things like:

  • Observe all traffic signs and signals. Just like drivers, pedestrians have a duty to obey the law. Pedestrians should only cross streets in designated crosswalks, and they should only do so when they have the right of way. When a police officer is helping to control traffic, pedestrians should follow the officer’s instructions.
  • Watch for oncoming traffic. Just because you have the right of way to cross an intersection, this doesn’t necessarily mean that approaching drivers are going to stop. Before crossing a street, check both ways to make sure you aren’t putting yourself in danger.
  • Don’t stop in a crosswalk. Once you are in a crosswalk with the right of way, it is important to continue across to the other side of the street. If you stop or bend over to pick something up, approaching drivers might not see you.
  • Stay on the sidewalk when walking along a road. When you are walking along a road with a sidewalk, stay on the sidewalk at all times. Stepping into the road can be dangerous, as drivers won’t be expecting you to be there.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Just like driving while distracted, walking while distracted can be dangerous. Any time you are walking near vehicle traffic, it is important to pay attention to your surroundings to make sure you aren’t putting yourself in harm’s way.

Contact a Tallassee Injury Attorney at Searcy Denney

Searcy Denney is a Florida personal injury law firm with offices in Tallahassee that represents victims of pedestrian accidents. If you would like to speak with an attorney at our firm, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 800-780-8607 or tell us how we can reach you online to schedule an appointment today.


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