The number of miles being driven in Pasco County has climbed significantly in recent years, and the number of transportation-related injuries and deaths has risen, too.
That’s the gist of a report presented by Gina Torres, an active transportation planner II, to the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) on Feb. 11.
Since 2017, MPOs have been required by federal law to adopt Safety Performance Measure Targets (PM1) by Feb. 27. To meet the requirements of Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the measures must be date-driven, realistic and achievable, not aspirational, Torres told MPO members.
Torres covered the report’s five required safety performance measures, which apply to all public roads.
“We use a five-year rolling total to really give you a good snapshot because we’ve actually seen particular years, for some reason, really jump up or down. So that doesn’t really give you a good idea of what’s going on. So, we base these numbers on a five-year range and we do that so you get a little bit better idea of how we are doing, better or worse,” Russo said.
Based on all public roads, the five-year annual average ending in 2019 showed an increase in the number of fatalities, Torres said. At the same time, though, the number of miles driven increased greatly, she said.
A chart in the agenda backup materials shows that the number of miles driven in the Pasco MPO’s jurisdiction rose from 44.2 million miles in 2015 to 55 million miles in 2019.
“I call it a law of percentages, if you have a lot more people driving, a lot more miles, our fatalities are going to go up,” Torres said.
The Pasco MPO data shows a slight trend downward in the five-year rolling average for number of serious injuries. The number went from an average of 1,133 (2014-2018) to an average of 1,192 (2015-2019), for a decrease of 1.2%. The rate of serious injuries during those same time frames went from 24.556 per million miles driven to 23.197 per million miles driven, for a drop of 5.5%.
However, the trend is up for fatalities, during the same time frames went from an average of 86.8 (2014-2018) to 92.2 (2015-2019), for a 6.2% increase in the number, and the rate went from 1.856 per million miles driven to 1.883 per million miles driven, for a 1.5% increase.
“What’s really ironic, our fatalities went up, our injuries went down,” Torres said. “Some of the professionals think that the injuries may have gone down because vehicles are being made to be safer.” But, she added, “that’s speculation.”
“Speed management has been one of the biggest issues with fatalities,” Russo said.
“If you have that higher speed, there’s a good chance you’re not going to survive that crash.”
Pasco also showed a slight trend upward for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, which went from an average of 121.8 (2014-201) to 122.8 (2015-2019), for an increase of 0.8%.
The number of pedestrian fatalities outnumbers the number of bicyclists who have been killed, Russo noted.
Pasco County MPO expects an eventual trend downward for all categories by implementing safety projects and programs, re-thinking priorities, and possibly allocating additional funds toward safety projects and programs, according to the agenda background materials.
Under federal funding requirements, both the county’s Long-Range Transportation Plan and its annual Transportation Improvement Program project list must discuss how recommended or listed projects advance progress toward meeting the targets.
Russo told the MPO board members that the staff’s recommended goal is to maintain the targets from 2019, which the board approved.
Transportation planning and programming are the primary functions of Pasco’s MPO, which is the lead transportation planning agency in Pasco County. It serves Zephyrhills, San Antonio, St. Leo, New Port Richey, Port Richey and Dade City.
Published February 24, 2021