Pasco's roads seeing more fatalities

Two motorists suffered serious injuries in an accident on I-75 when one vehicle suffered a left-front tire blowout.

Despite a decline in road injuries, the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization heard on Feb. 11 that fatalities from auto crashes and collisions with bicycles and pedestrians are going up.

Tina Russo of the MPO said that while motor vehicle safety improvements have lowered the injury rate, statistics from the pandemic show drivers are speeding more.

“People are driving faster because there are fewer vehicles on the road because of current situation,” she said. 

Speed management has been one of the biggest issues with fatalities. “If you have that higher speed, you’re not going to survive.”

In her presentation, Russo pointed out that the data for the Pasco MPO show a slight trend downward in the five-year rolling average for number of injuries (1,119.2, down by 1.2%) and rate of injuries per 100 million miles traveled (23.197, down by 5.5%) from 2015 to 2019. However, the data for Pasco MPO also show a trend upward for the five-year rolling average for number (92.2, up by 6.2%) and rate (1.883, up by 1.5%) of fatalities. Pasco County showed a slight trend upward for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries (122.8, up by 0.8%).

County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick asked if law enforcement wasn’t coming out to slow down traffic. Russo noted that the effort is geared toward community engagement, and not enforcement.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey mentioned a near-miss she had in her vehicle the previous day, and that there are problems around merge zones. She said she wanted to see a map of crashes that had taken place in the county.

Commissioner Ron Oakley said that with more roundabouts being built, that might slow down speeding motorists.

Russo said the Office of Traffic Operations Management is continuing to monitor and implement safety projects, and apply for more money. It received over $2 million in funding for safety improvements in 2019-20, she said.

Projects include Vision Zero, an FDOT program aiming for no statewide fatalities and no serious injuries.

According to Russo’s presentation, in 2020, Phase 1 MPO observed behavior on Pasco’s active transportation network, created working library of vision zero observations and video footage, and produced safety promotional materials. Phase 2 will start in 2021, with a focus on community engagement.

The Active Transportation Plan is working toward developing a network for pedestrians, cyclists and other active transportation network users.

In other news

• The Pasco MPO is soliciting public input on transportation planning as part of its certification process. The public comment period runs through Feb. 26, and people can give their input on social media by using the hashtag #PascoMPOFederalReview, emailing MPOComments@mypasco.net, calling 727-847-8140, ext. 7567, or visiting the Federal Highway Administration website at www.fhwa.dot.gov/fldiv/tma.cfm. For more options, visit bit.ly/MPO-review.

• MPO members heard about the Tampa Bay Bike Challenge from March 1 to 31, in which citizens can register on LovetoRide.net/TampaBay, track their bike rides and be eligible for prizes.

• Starkey asked that the board start a letter defending the existence of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority in light of the proposed Senate bill to dissolve such organizations. “We have the largest MSA in the country without a regional solution,” she said. “I hope TBARTA stays.” At present, there is no companion bill in the House.