The number of miles being driven in Pasco County is climbing — and so is the number of transportation-related injuries and deaths.
That’s the essence of a report, “Crash data: The story behind the numbers,” by Tina A. Russo and Johnny Koors, which was delivered to the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) board at its Feb. 10 meeting.
Russso is an active transportation planner for the MPO, specializing in pedestrian and bicycle safety, and Koors is a transportation planner for the agency.
Under federal law, the MPO was required to adopt system performance measures for safety by Feb. 27. Local MPOs could adopt their own or use the state’s targets.
The Pasco MPO team developed its targets for calendar year 2022 based on local data provided by the Florida Department of Transportation.
While the aspirational goal is to have zero deaths and serious injuries, the law requires MPOs to establish targets that are data-driven, realistic and achievable, Russo said.
The report must include:
- The number of fatalities
- The rate of fatalities per hundred million miles of vehicle travel
- The number of serious injuries
- The rate of serious injuries per miles
- Non-motorized fatalities and serious injuries
The report indicates five-year averages, to provide a more accurate snapshot, Russo said.
“If we picked one year, especially if it was 2020, those numbers are going to be skewed,” she explained. “So, everything we do is that five-year trend, so we can see what’s really happening.”
The number of vehicle miles traveled influences the number of deaths and serious injuries, she noted.
In other words: “If you have more cars — more people driving — you’re going to have a greater number of fatalities and injuries,” Russo said.
“It’s not only about the fatalities. It’s the serious injuries that people incur and live with those injuries for their whole lives,” she said.
Russo showed the MPO board a map containing red dots, to indicate where the fatalities are occurring in the county.
“If you notice something, they’re all over the place. There’s not a specific area — unless you look at (U.S.) 19, that corridor — they’re all over the place.
“If we could find one intersection that was the worst and work on it, we could do that. But it’s a general behavior that’s going on here that’s happening,” Russo said.
She also noted that based on the report’s data, the county is heading in the wrong direction, when it comes to fatalities. In 2020, it had 107 fatalities from vehicle crashes, compared to 99 in 2019 and in 2018.
“We went from 99 to 107. That’s definitely something we don’t want to see,” she said.
There is a bright spot that’s not reflected in the report, she said.
“Our annual fatalities in 2021, the good news, we went down one. And, considering our miles went up, that’s a good sign for us. That we’re trending, at least, in another direction.
“We went from 107 to 106,” she said. But since the report lags behind a year, ending in 2020, that’s not in the report, she said.
Russo also noted: “Our serious injuries in that five-year period, you can see they’re starting to go down a little bit.”
She continued: “From what we’ve learned … our automobiles have become safer to drive. We’ve got airbags. We’re getting a lot of different things that help save us from those injuries.
“Believe it or not, some of those roundabouts will help with this, too. If we’ve got those lower speeds, in roundabouts …
“We all know that intersections can be very deadly. But roundabouts decrease our speed, so there are lower speed impacts,” Russo said.
She also addressed trends involving deaths and serious injuries involving bicyclists and pedestrians.
“There was a definite increase of more pedestrians being killed in 2020,” she said. At the same time, there was a notable increase in people walking during that COVID-19 period.
She also said that cyclists darting across U.S. 19 contributed to the number of deaths in that category.
Steps to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries include:
- Prioritizing projects, with safety in mind
- Making safety improvements when resurfacing work is done
- Improving lighting, especially at intersections
- Adding sidewalks and multi-use paths
Efforts must be persistent and ongoing, according to Russo.
“Things don’t change overnight. It takes a long time to get those numbers to turn in a different direction,” she said.
Targets adopted for 2022
Number of fatalities: 99.8
Rate of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles: 2.002
Number of serious injuries: 1,058.6
Rate of serious injuries per 100 million vehicle miles: 21.337
Number of combined pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries: 125.2
Pasco County traffic fatalities:
Vehicle Miles Traveled (100 million miles)
Pasco’s five-year trends:
Average annual fatalities
Average annual serious injuries
Published February 16, 2022