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Local officials launch ‘Pedestrian Safety Month’ in Okaloosa County

Improving pedestrian safety is front and center in Okaloosa County during October’s designation as Pedestrian Safety Month.  Crestview Mayor JB Whitten said 31 pedestrian and cyclist deaths occurred in Okaloosa […]

Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage and Crestview Mayor JB Whitten (Okaloosa Public Information Office)

Improving pedestrian safety is front and center in Okaloosa County during October’s designation as Pedestrian Safety Month. 

  • At a press conference Monday at the county commission building, local government and law enforcement officials formally kicked off a coordinated campaign to promote better pedestrian safety awareness and habits in the county.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten said 31 pedestrian and cyclist deaths occurred in Okaloosa County from 2020 to 2022. Statewide in 2021, there were 998 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities from vehicle crashes. 

“It’s time we do something about these tragedies, and that is why today we’re kicking off October as Pedestrian Safety Month,” Whitten said.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten (Okaloosa Public Information Office)

The pedestrian safety initiatives are being organized by the Okaloosa County Health Improvement Partnership (OCHIP), which brings together government agencies, law enforcement, schools, health organizations and other community stakeholders to improve public health in the county.

Whitten said a key goal is to educate citizens that Florida has the highest pedestrian fatality rate per capita in the entire country. 

  • “Here in Okaloosa County between 2020 and 2022, there have been 31 pedestrian cyclist deaths. During the same time, there were 479 crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists, of which 65 resulted in serious injuries,” the mayor noted.

Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage, co-chair of OCHIP’s Healthy Communities working group, said the Pedestrian Safety Month campaign includes a student poster contest, release of public safety videos and a “walk, roll, ride to school” event on Oct. 4.

(Okaloosa Public Information Office)

“Various schools throughout the county will coordinate separate events, and prior to school, parents, teachers, students, law enforcement, community members will all walk or bike or roll to a school,” explained Bage. “It’s really to build awareness and best practices on how you get to school, how you cross the street, how you arrive at school safely.”

The deadline for the poster contest aimed at elementary, middle and high school students is this Thursday, Oct. 6. Winners will have their posters displayed in local government buildings and receive certificates signed by mayors across the county.

  • Bage emphasized that pedestrian safety is a two-way street requiring caution and attention by both drivers and pedestrians. He said engineering improvements like sidewalks, crosswalks and signals are most effective for safety, followed by education of the public.
Okaloosa Commissioner Trey Goodwin (Okaloosa Public Information Office)

Okaloosa County Commissioner Trey Goodwin highlighted several planned sidewalk and road improvement projects intended to aid pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

One key initiative is a proposed multimodal path along Highway 98 running from the Brooks Bridge to Marler Bridge on Okaloosa Island. The path would provide an alternative to walking or biking along the busy highway.

Goodwin noted pedestrian safety is critical in the heavily visited tourist county. 

  • “As a high impact tourism destination, pedestrian safety is a top issue for us here in Okaloosa as we make sure that we’re friendly and safe for our tourists,” Goodwin said.
Okaloosa Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel (Okaloosa Public Information Office)

The first of three pedestrian safety videos produced by local government public information staff was unveiled at Monday’s press conference. The other videos will be released throughout October on social media pages of the sheriff’s office, cities and county.

County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, who lost her brother in a fatal bicycle accident when he was a teenager, read a proclamation passed Sept. 19 by Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners formally recognizing October as Pedestrian Safety Month.

  • In the proclamation, commissioners highlighted the personal, environmental and safety benefits of walking. They also noted tips for improving pedestrian and driver safety habits.


One Response

  1. Not a top priority at all! Once jay walking tickets begin to be issued in mass we will be known for enforcing pedestrian laws. Walking to where a crosswalk is provided saves lives. All crosswalks need blinking strobes and motorists need to be ticketed heavily for running thru when a pedestrian is waiting to cross.

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