Students at Risk for Florida Pedestrian Accidents
Throughout the state, Floridians are feeling the impact of state and local government budget shortfalls. For some, the cutback in services is an inconvenience. Others — including the thousands of Central Florida students who have to walk to school every day because funding doesn’t exist for bussing — are regularly put in harm’s way.
Personal injury attorney in Florida know all too well the dangers pedestrians face, especially if they are walking in the dark or in an area without proper sidewalks. In 2009, 4,092 Americans were killed in pedestrian accidents and another 59,000 suffered some type of personal injury. A recent study found that Central Florida is the most dangerous place in the country to be a pedestrian.
Children Travel on Dark Roads With No Sidewalks
The Orlando Sentinel recently profiled one student whose daily commute exemplifies the potential dangers faced by students who do not have transportation to get to school. Tabitha Freeman is a 15-year old student at South Lake High School. Because she lives within two miles of the school, the district does not provide her with bus service. However, her family only has one car and her dad needs it for his 4 a.m. commute to work.
So, every day, Tabitha walks to school. She leaves a little after 6 a.m. and makes the nearly two-mile journey down a pitch-black highway with no sidewalks and no streetlights. The paper quotes her as saying, “I can’t even see where I’m going sometimes. I don’t like it, but it’s what I have to do to get to school.”
There are steps students can take to prevent pedestrian accidents, and Tabitha uses them all. She wears a reflective vest, carries a flashlight and walks against traffic.
Florida Law Doesn’t Require Bussing
Florida school transportation law doesn’t require districts to provide bus service for middle- and high-school students who live within two miles of their schools. Many cash-strapped districts use this exemption to save money, especially when one school bus route can cost a district approximately $40,000 a year.
However, many parents — including Tabitha’s mom — wonder if the savings are worth it. What happens if a child gets in an accident and is injured, or even killed? Is saving $40,000 really worth risking a young person’s life? Tabitha’s mom told the Sentinel, “It’s really hard as a parent not to think that she’s going to go off, and I’m not going to see her again… That’s what I feel every single day.”
Parents throughout Central Florida are pushing their districts to provide bus routes. Unfortunately, given the current economy, the situation isn’t expected to change any time soon. In the meantime, students can take steps to protect themselves by making themselves visible to cars and staying as far away from driving lanes as possible.
Parents of students who are injured in a pedestrian accident should know that they have rights. If your child has been injured, contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney who can help you recover for your child’s medical expenses.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “It’s a Long, Dangerous Walk to School for Many Students,” 29 October 2011