Fort Walton Beach is a small seaside community of about 20,000 residents in Okaloosa County, FL. Fort Walton Beach attracts thousands of tourists each year with its beautiful coastline. Many tourists and residents enjoy bicycling as they enjoy the weather and the beautiful surroundings.
Therefore, bicycle safety is an important issue for residents and city officials. Road safety impacts the people in Fort Walton Beach, but it also impacts tourism and the city’s economy. As we discuss some of the causes of bicycle accidents in Fort Walton Beach, we also discuss ways you can help city officials improve bicycle safety.
Fort Walton Traffic Accident Statistics for 2018 Through 2020
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) collects crash data throughout the state. Then, it compiles that data into annual traffic reports. The reports do not break down traffic accidents by city, but they provide crash stats for counties.
The crash stats for Okaloosa County for 2018 through 2020 include:
- An average of 3,394 traffic crashes per year
- 192 bicycle accidents
- 5 bicyclist deaths
- 6,184 traffic injuries
- 111 traffic-related deaths
- 231 pedestrian accidents
- 19 pedestrian deaths
- 668 accidents involving commercial motor vehicles
- 298 motorcycle accidents
- Roughly 66 alcohol-related crashes each year
- 19 motorcyclist deaths
Sadly, most traffic accidents are preventable. They are caused by negligence and mistakes. Because bicyclists are vulnerable road users (they have a high risk of severe injury and death in an accident), improving bicycle safety in Fort Walton Beach is crucial.
Bicycle Accidents in Fort Walton Beach
Bicyclists face challenges that motorists do not. Like motorcycles, bicycles offer no protection against injuries in a traffic accident. Furthermore, bicycles are smaller than motorcycles, so they are even harder to see when riding in traffic.
If another party caused the bicycle accident, the rider might recover compensation for injuries and damages by filing a personal injury claim. The rider can discuss their legal rights with a Fort Walton Beach bicycle accident lawyer.
Motorists must pay attention to the road and look for cyclists as they drive around Fort Walton Beach. Unfortunately, many motorists are guilty of distracted driving. Distracted driving continues to be one of the most common causes of bicycle accidents.
Other factors that negatively affect bicycle safety in Fort Walton Beach include:
- Speeding and reckless driving
- Failing to yield right of way
- Following bicycles too closely
- Drunk driving and bicycling
- Failing to allow sufficient space when passing a cyclist
- Drowsy driving and bicycling
- Failure to obey traffic laws and bicycle laws
Weather conditions and road hazards can be factors in some bicycle crashes. Additionally, faulty bicycle parts and poorly designed streets and intersections can be factors in the cause of a bicycle accident.
How is Fort Walton Beach Improving Bicycle Safety?
Improving bicycle infrastructure is a key element of decreasing the number of bicycle accidents in Fort Walton Beach.
bicycle infrastructure can include:
- Bicycle lanes
- Bicycle storage and parking facilities
- Curb extensions
- Intersection improvements for bicycles
- Paved shoulders
- Bicycle paths and trails
- Buffers and separators
- Bicyclist scale lighting
- Shared-lane markings
- Additional signals in high-traffic areas
The Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization includes several projects and goals in its Transportation Improvement Program for FY 2020-2024. Likewise, the Fort Walton Beach Community Redevelopment Plan recognizes a lack of a bicycle network within specific areas of concern. As a result, the plan includes several objectives for improving bicycle safety.
However, bicycle safety is a community concern. Therefore, everyone is responsible for taking steps to improve bicycle safety throughout the city.
Ways You Can Improve Bicycle Safety in Fort Walton Beach, FL
Motorists and bicyclists can work together to improve bicycle safety and reduce the number of bicycle accidents in Fort Walton Beach.
Steps that you can take include, but are not limited to:
- Review the Florida Driver’s Manual to ensure you understand traffic laws and bicycle laws
- Always follow traffic laws whenever driving or cycling
- Never bicycle or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Avoid driving or cycling when you are drowsy or fatigued
- Follow speed limits and always use signals to let others using the road know you intend to turn or stop
- Avoid distractions when driving or cycling, including using a cell phone or texting
- Never wear headphones or earbuds while cycling or driving
- Slow down when approaching crosswalks, schools, neighborhoods, parks, and other places where bicyclists may ride
- Do not drive in designated bicycle lanes
- Always monitor children riding bicycles and never let children bicycle to school alone
If everyone does their part to improve bicycle safety in Fort Walton Beach, we can save lives and reduce the number of serious injuries from bicycle accidents.