Over the years, there have been several attempts to fix Florida woefully inadequate statute that is supposed to describe hazardous walking conditions for Florida students and make provisions for their safety. However, nearly every attempt has failed, in part because the current statute is so broken, it’s difficult to create incremental fixes that safeguard students and it’s just as difficult to create a solution that gets the job done right, yet is revenue neutral.
How broken is the statute?
The current statute – section 1006.23 of the Florida statutes – states that:
- Students don’t need to have room to walk along (or off of) the roadway unless the traffic volume is greater than 180 vehicles per hour in each direction. That’s an average total of 1 vehicle every 10 seconds before the law considers it hazardous for a student to walk on the road or along a narrow strip off of the road.
- Intersections that have traffic signals aren’t hazardous for students unless the traffic volume on the road exceeds 4,000 vehicles per hour, an average of more than 1 vehicle per second.
- Intersections that don’t have traffic control signals aren’t considered hazardous for students unless the traffic volume on the road exceeds 360 vehicles per hour in each direction, an average total of 1 vehicle every 5 seconds.
In the meantime, Florida remains the most dangerous state in America for pedestrians and is home to the 6 most dangerous and 9 of the 14 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians in the United States. All of Florida’s congressional districts except for the 18th and 19th districts rank among the U.S.’s 100 most dangerous for walking, and Florida owns 10 of America’s 25 most dangerous congressional districts for walking.
So, while Florida remains so dangerous for pedestrians, the hazardous walking conditions statute has contributed to a bizarre phenomenon that has seen the 9 Florida school districts that lie within America’s 6 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians transporting 21% fewer students around hazardous walking conditions than they did 5 years ago and 40% fewer than they did 10 years ago.
In fact, 35 of Florida’s 67 school districts claim no hazardous walking conditions student ridership at all and haven’t for 10 years or more. Instead, many simply direct parents to the Florida hazardous walking conditions statute to explain why their children might not be eligible for school bus transportation service. Yet, every one of those 35 school districts lie within one of the United States’ 100 most dangerous congressional districts. (Source of school district data in this article: Florida Department of Education School District Transportation Profiles)
It’s clear that rather than merely chipping away at the language in the statute, what’s required is a top to bottom overhaul of the criteria so the language finally makes sense and is practical. Any “solution” that leaves the current flawed criteria in place will leave students in danger.
Florida Representative Mike Beltran has filed House Bill 1043 that fixes the statute and safeguards our student pedestrians. We encourage both houses of the legislature to approve it and the Governor to sign it into law.