Jewish Pedestrian Safety Goal of State Traffic Safety Initiative

The death of a 12-year-old girl last year at a bustling intersection near Boca Raton has prompted state officials to conduct a $200,000 traffic study that focuses specifically on safety solutions for Orthodox Jewish pedestrians.
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Of course, pedestrian accident lawyers know that all people on foot would potentially benefit if the recommendations are adopted. However, the reason the effort is focused on this community is because of religious beliefs that forbid the faithful from driving or using electricity during the Sabbath and holy days.

This particular intersection, at Boca Del Mar Drive and Palmetto Park Road, is anchored on either side by Orthodox Jewish synagogues. At least once every week, the area is flooded with pedestrians, hundreds of families either on their way to worship or headed home or off to visit family and friends.

It was during one of these days in April of last year when the young girl was struck by a car as she crossed the intersection on her skateboard. She was in the crosswalk at the time of the crash.

The community immediately pushed for change. The Florida Department of Transportation has responded, with a plan to install sensors at the site. Those sensors would indicate when a person on foot is ready to cross and would automatically change the traffic signal. The sensors would also prevent the signal from changing while there are still people present in the crosswalk.

The young girl’s death also prompted the county research how much foot traffic that intersection was getting. Officials determined that on an average Saturday morning, roughly 250 walkers crossed at that intersection between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Some safety advocates have been pushing for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the street, which would allow walkers to bypass the roadway entirely. The county recently concluded a $200,000 study that determined a bridge would cost roughly $1 million, and would include ramps on either side of the main road to offer access.

While most in the Orthodox community voiced strong support for the structure, officials are concerned that people won’t actually use it, because it will mean a longer walk. Plus, they say, it’s expensive. Still, no final decision has been made.

In the meantime, officials with the FDOT say they are continuing to work on improvements to roads in Orthodox Jewish communities throughout the state, where there have also reportedly been problems. For example, in Jacksonville last year, a woman was struck and killed while crossing a busy road as she walked to her synagogue on Yom Kippur. The community there asked for a pedestrian bridge too, but the state instead installed video sensors that activate when a person walks near it.

While many pedestrian intersections have signals that will change when pushed, the problem for the Jewish community is that they aren’t allowed to push the buttons during the Sabbath. This issue was what fueled a state transportation effort called, “Safe Routes to Synagogues.” With the specific needs for this large pedestrian population identified, officials are hopeful that workable, affordable initiatives can be implemented to make the community safer.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
State hopes to make west Boca intersection safer, April 29, 2014, By Angel Streeter, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Pedestrians at High Risk in Broward, Miami-Dade Counties, Feb. 20, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Pedestrian Injury Lawyer Blog