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In Top 20 Fla. Counties For Pedestrian-Cyclist Crashes, FDOT Launches Campaign In Leon

Alert Today Florida youtube channel

A statewide initiative launched in select Florida counties is now underway in Leon County. The Alert Tonight Florida campaign focuses on improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Scott Lagassee Jr. is a NASCAR driver—who on the track has driven up to 200 miles per hour.

“I get the question often, ‘aren’t you scared to go 200 miles an hour, inches apart from people?’ And, my response is the same every time,” he said. “‘No, I’m scared to get on the highways a lot of the times.’”

And, he says he’s also scared as a bicyclist in Florida.

“It’s very scary,” added Lagassee. “So, I’ve taken it upon myself to do things that probably a lot don’t. I’ll only ride certain routes. I’ll only ride routes that have long visible areas, night and day with a light. I won’t ride without a light in the daytime and strobing. Certain things, like that, I do everything I can to try to stay safe because as cyclists, we’ve been buzzed a lot of times.”

But, he says cyclists and pedestrians do bare responsibility to remain visible to oncoming cars.

That’s a main staple of Alert Tonight Florida—a campaign that’s been around for a few years spearheaded by the Florida Department of Transportation through educational efforts and PSAs.

“Visibility, while driving at night, can be challenging for drivers. And, their failure to see pedestrians is often fatal. In Florida, 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. Many drivers say they never saw the pedestrian. What will it take to see them? Can you see them now? Drivers, look for pedestrians, especially at night. Pedestrians, make sure you are visible. Alert Tonight, Alive tomorrow because safety doesn’t happen by accident.”

And, FDOT's  Trenda McPherson, the State Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Program Manager, says the Alert campaign has helped.

“The bad news is we started in 2011, we were number one in the nation for pedestrian fatalities and number one was not where we wanted to be, especially in fatalities,” she said. “We are no longer number one. The focused initiative to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety has been successful in getting us out of that top ranking.”

But, she says while Florida is no longer at the number one spot in the nation for these accidents, it has only dropped to the second spot. She’s hoping the Alert initiative will help that number keep falling.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gil Ziffer says Leon is among the top 20 counties in the state for these types of crashes.

“So, for me, when I was informed that Tallahassee and Leon County ranked in the top 20, and that’s not a good top 20, for fatalities and accidents when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian safety, it was important for me to at least participate and do what I can to change that,” he said. “And, so, with this program that’s being announced today, I think we can do that.”

As in other high crash areas, FDOT just launched the Alert Tonight Florida campaign in Leon County. The agency is also working with area law enforcement agencies including the Florida Highway Patrol, the Leon County Sheriff’s office, the Tallahassee Police Department, and university campus police departments.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.