BREVARD COUNTY — In late September, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (SCTPO) announced a new initiative to eliminate traffic-related fatalities during a “Vision Zero” symposium at the Bill Posey Conference Center.
Community members, police officers and government officials were invited to attend, and many signed a pledge to commit to safe road rules practices.
“For too long, we’ve considered traffic deaths and severe injuries to be inevitable side effects of modern life,” said Georganna Gillette, executive director of SCTPO.
She continued, “While often referred to as ‘accidents,’ the reality is that we can prevent these tragedies by picking a proactive, preventative approach that prioritizes traffic safety for the public health.”
Keynote speaker Melissa Wandall is the president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads. She shared a personal story about the death of her husband, Mark, over a red-light runner, and how she has since made it her life's mission to be involved with state legislature to prevent more traffic deaths.
Ms. Wandall said she was nine months pregnant, just two weeks shy of giving birth to their daughter, when she lost her husband to a driver who already had 10 points on her license and seven previous violations.
The driver who ran the red light received a $500 fine and community service sentence, according to Ms. Wandall. The driver had already been to traffic school three times and would be required to go again, but this time, her points would be adjudicated and no place on her record would say she took the life of someone else, just that she failed to obey a traffic signal.
“When a law enforcement officer pulls you over and gives you a ticket, they’re trying to make sure that you don’t do it anymore so you don’t take a life,” Ms. Wandall said.
According to Ms. Wandall, there had been 252,000 people seriously injured and 3,004 deaths on Florida roadways last year.
“Gone in a moment... women that have had their babies ripped from them, children, moms, dads, grandparents, friends and families,” Ms. Wandall said. “You take that 3,004 people, you times that by five people that loved those people that lost their lives in our state, and now you have 15,000 [people] in grief in the state of Florida.”
Ms. Wandall turned her grief to action, bringing the daughter her husband never got to meet along with her to Tallahassee to speak with state representatives about traffic practices, and what can be done to prevent more road deaths.
In 2010, the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act passed, bringing red light cameras into Florida communities.
With each ticket given out, $10 is donated to the Health Administration Trust Fund in Florida, and $3 is donated to the Miami Project for Paralysis. To date, $51M and more than $15M has been raised for these organizations, respectively.
Additional local speakers such as Dist. 5 Secretary for Florida Department of Transportation Michael Shannon, and Bicycle/pedestrian Safety Program Manager for FDOT Trenda McPherson, shared statistics in regard to Brevard County pedestrian and bicycle crash facts.
For example, according to statistics between 2013-17 from Signal Four Analytics, one in nine pedestrian crashes and one in 23 bicycle crashes resulted in death. Most crashes occurred during the day at 70%, and only 7% resulted from wet roads.
Within 2017-18, behavioral observations concluded that 78% of drivers did not yield to pedestrians on crosswalks, an increase from 61% in 2015-16.
Additionally, 93% of people walking or bicycling were reported as being distracted.
In conclusion of the symposium, a Vision Zero Task Force was announced and newly appointed members attended workshops later in the afternoon.
Vision Zero aims to shift the driving culture by creating safer policies, practices and behaviors so that one day, there will be no more traffic deaths.
For more information, call (321) 690-6890 or visit www.spacecoasttpo.com.