With more than 203,000 Orange County Public School students out and about for vacation, summer was the right time for the return of Operation Best Foot Forward (BFF) when local law enforcement comes out in full force to remind Central Floridians about the Florida driver law requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. As children and youth prepare to return to school this month, it’s time for another reminder.
Drivers are required by law to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk – failing to do so can get you a $164 ticket, plus three points on your license. On just one day of crosswalk enforcement — the 17th round of Operation BFF — officers from the Orlando Police Department (OPD) and Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OSCO) issued 102 tickets and 29 warnings. Since the first round of Operation BFF, the total comes to 2,497 citations and 4,122 warnings.
Best Foot Forward is a program of Bike Walk Central Florida (BWCF) which was founded and initially funded by the Winter Park Health Foundation in 2012 in response to citizens’ appeals for “civility on our roads.” The effort is now funded by Metroplan Orlando, Orange County and the City of Orlando.
Operation BFF, created by BWCF and local law enforcement, has undercover officers pose as pedestrians in Orange County crosswalks. Drivers who don’t stop are given citations or lectured on the dangers of speeding. Operation BFF is centered around the Triple E approach in action: Educating drivers about the law, Enforcing yielding where enforcement is most needed, and Engineering to keep pedestrians safe, like smart crosswalk placement and lower speed limits.
Reporters who covered the event were told the chances of death from being struck by a vehicle increase on roads with 40 mph speed limits and above.
According to Orlando Police Sergeant Jeffery Blye, some drivers don’t stop because of distractions such as changing the radio station or checking a text message. However, others fail to stop because they don’t know that yielding for pedestrians is the law.
Metro Orlando is the third-most dangerous place in the nation for pedestrians, according to a 2016 report by Smart Growth America. In 2014, the same report deemed Central Florida as the deadliest. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes added that the Florida Highway Patrol investigated 25 fatal pedestrian crashes in Orange County in 2015 and 42 in 2016.
Bike Walk Central Florida is currently launching its campaign to increase the number of bike-friendly roads in Central Florida with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation.