The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award
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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, media, government agencies, universities, or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke
2013 Winner: Florida DOT Bicycle/Pedestrian
In 2010, Florida’s pedestrian fatality rate was the highest in the nation, at 2.58 deaths per 100,000 population. Pedestrian deaths accounted for 22 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state, claiming 499 lives. Recognizing the need to improve safety for these vulnerable roadway users, the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Bicycle/Pedestrian Focused Initiative commenced in late 2011.
Led by a team of FDOT officials and representatives from law enforcement, public health, driver licensing, emergency services, tourism, and roadway user groups – the newly formed Florida Pedestrian and Bicycle Coalition, the data-driven program focused resources where opportunities for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety were the greatest. A comprehensive analysis of crash data identified the top 10 highest priority counties, including Miami-Dade and Hillsborough (Tampa/St. Petersburg/ Clearwater), and targeted high visibility enforcement, including saturation patrols at intersections and in crosswalks.
In addition to enforcement, the Coalition also developed the state’s first branded, pedestrian/bicycle education campaign, dubbed Alert Today Alive Tomorrow. The campaign, which has a goal of increasing awareness of pedestrian and bicycle laws by five percent in the first year of implementation, featured paid media and outreach activities. Team members hosted and participated in numerous community events in the priority counties, distributing t-shirts, tip cards and rewards to those who exhibited appropriate crosswalk behavior. Grassroots pedestrian safety presentations (WalkWise) and bicycle safety courses (BikeSmart) were also conducted to reach citizens in Tampa and other communities.
A one-stop website – www.alerttodayflorida.com – was developed to provide easy access to Florida laws and safety tips for pedestrians and bicyclists. The content was updated regularly and a series of public service announcements were developed and housed on the site. The Coalition also partnered with the Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR during high tourist and pedestrian periods to generate awareness about the campaign among the residents of and visitors to Volusia County.
The University of South Florida (USF), located in Tampa, also joined the effort. Not only did USF assist the team in developing the state’s first Pedestrian/Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan, but it also conducted a “Bulls Walk and Bike Week” to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety on what is one of the nation’s largest university campuses.
All of these activities were monitored to determine impact. From observational and public opinion surveys to ongoing crash data analysis, the team remained focused on taking a data-driven approach to improving pedestrian and bicycle safety in Florida. That effort yielded significant findings that are beneficial not only to Florida, but also to other states seeking to develop and implement a similar initiative. For example, data collected from the observational and public opinion surveys confirmed that awareness of pedestrian and bicycle laws by roadway users is fairly high, but compliance is low. That information helped inform the campaign message and the HVE activities, which sparked strong media coverage.
After the first full year of implementation, the Bicycle/Pedestrian Focused Initiative is yielding positive results. Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities decreased 6.24 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively, from 2011 to 2012. Awareness of safe walking and bicycling behaviors also increased from 20 to as much as 80 percent as a result of the grassroots education. Following a weeklong educational campaign at the USF campus, there was an 11 percent increase from drivers, a 34 percent increase from pedestrians and a 94 percent increase from bicyclists on the perceived yielding behaviors of drivers who encountered pedestrians and bicyclists on the road.
Both NHTSA and FHWA funds were leveraged to mount this comprehensive educational and enforcement effort. Due to Florida’s large size and cultural diversity, the Coalition was strategic in their approach, naming “district” champions who were tasked with identifying and addressing the specific needs of their respective areas. The Coalition also convened roundtables across the state to garner stakeholder input and support, as well as led the effort to update the vulnerable users emphasis area in Florida’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Their approach, which has prompted inquiries from other states, is laying a solid foundation for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety throughout Florida.
For more information, contact Lora Hollingsworth, Florida DOT Safety Office, Chief Safety Officer, at 850-245-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.