Destin, FL, has a population just below 14,000. But the city is one of Florida’s most popular tourist destinations. About 3.6 million people visit Destin every year, with many of them strolling, jogging, and biking on Destin’s boardwalk and beaches.
Based on the number of visitors, Destin has a relatively good bicycle safety record. But traffic congestion during tourist season can put cars and bicycles on a literal collision course.
Here is some information about Destin’s bicycle safety, crash stats, and infrastructure.
Bicycle Crash Stats for Destin, FL
Florida does not separate the causes of bicycle crashes from the causes of all traffic crashes. But the top causes of bicycle crashes tend to follow the top causes of all traffic accidents.
According to the state of Florida, the top causes of accidents in Florida include:
Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of bicycle accidents. Bear in mind that these accidents can happen when a bicyclist or a vehicle driver gets distracted.
Distracted driving increases your stopping and maneuvering distance. Distractions delay you from recognizing and reacting to road and traffic conditions.
Florida has several laws to reduce distracted driving. Drivers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists cannot wear earbuds or headsets over both ears while moving. You can wear a single earbud or earphone while talking on a cell phone.
Florida also restricts texting while driving. This law only covers motor vehicle drivers and does not apply to bicyclists. The law makes texting while driving a primary offense for which you can get stopped and ticketed, even if you do not violate any other traffic laws.
Another common cause of bicycle accidents in Florida is an improper lookout before maneuvering. Drivers have expectations when they drive. Unfortunately, these expectations often blind them to bicyclists.
When a driver turns left or right, they often forget to check the bike lane, crosswalk, or sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists. Similarly, as they merge into traffic or change lanes, they often fail to spot bicyclists before maneuvering into them.
Failure to Yield the Right of Way
In Florida, the law treats bicycles as vehicles. This means bicycles must follow the same traffic laws as vehicles.
When approaching an intersection, car and truck drivers have a tendency to push through to try to beat oncoming cyclists or pedestrians instead of yielding to them.
Similarly, cyclists often use their maneuverability to try to get around cars rather than yielding. Both habits can lead to bicycle accidents.
Intoxicated Driving and Cycling
You might expect a tourist hub like Destin to have a major problem with intoxicated driving. Intoxicated driving was blamed for most of Destin’s traffic injuries and deaths. In 2021, intoxicated driving played a factor in 16 of 20 serious traffic injuries and 6 of 10 fatalities on Destin’s roads.
Fortunately, none of the drunk or drugged driving accidents in Destin injured or killed any bicyclists. But because of the prevalence of intoxicated driving in Destin, cyclists should remain aware of the risk.
Bicycle Safety in Destin, FL
Bicycle safety in Destin, FL, depends on both cyclists and the local government. Cyclists must take some initiative to ride safely. Similarly, the government must provide the infrastructure to protect cyclists.
Helmet Use in Destin
A helmet provides one of the most effective preventative measures you can take against serious injury or death in a bicycle accident.
In Destin, helmeted riders have a 2.4% chance of dying in a bicycle accident. Unhelmeted riders have a 2.83% chance of dying in a bicycle accident. This means that wearing a helmet reduces your odds of dying in a bike accident by 16.6%.
Florida requires riders under 16 to wear a bicycle helmet. But anyone 16 or older can ride without a helmet.
Unfortunately, helmet use is not common in Destin. Only about 16% of cyclists involved in bicycle accidents in Destin were wearing a helmet at the time of their accidents.
Most Dangerous Roads and Intersections in Destin for Bicycle Accidents
Most bicycle accidents happen on US-98. This busy road separates Downtown Destin and many of the area’s hotels from the beaches. It also provides access to other Emerald Coast attractions from Destin.
US-98 has three hot spots for bicycle accidents, which include:
US-98 and Stahlman Avenue
This intersection is one of Destin’s most congested. It provides access to Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Traffic entering and exiting the boardwalk area must turn directly onto US-98. This intersection is the site of several bicycle accidents every year.
US-98 and Melvin Street
This intersection does not have a traffic control signal. As a result, bicycles at this intersection must cross or merge into active traffic. US-98 does have a protected crosswalk a block west of Melvin Street for bicyclists and pedestrians.
US-98 near the Paradise Key Shopping Center
The Paradise Key shopping center has several restaurants, grocery stores, and retail stores. Cyclists entering or exiting the shopping center must contend with heavy traffic on US-98 and FL-293. This area sees several bicycle accidents every year.
Bicycle Infrastructure in Destin, FL
Destin also has several mixed-use paths where cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motorized traffic can travel free from any cars or trucks. One of these paths, The Timpoochee Trail, runs for 20 miles along the Emerald Coast.
The Future of Bicycle Safety in Destin
Destin has plans to renovate several intersections, including its most dangerous at US-98 and Stahlman Avenue. The city has also studied building pedestrian pathways over US-98 and other busy roads. These projects should improve traffic flow and safety for pedestrians and cyclists headed to the boardwalk and beaches.
By taking steps like this, Destin will reduce the rate of bicycle accidents and keep Destin a fun and safe place to bike.