Orange County steps up patrols to make streets safer for pedestrians

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

The Florida Highway Patrol is joining the effort to make streets safer for pedestrians, and that means getting drivers' attention with tickets.

Drivers know the rules and pedestrians know not to cross in the middle of the block, but that hasn't stopped dozens of people from being killed every year in Orange County.

On Orange County roads, a daily duel between drivers in a hurry and folks on foot trying to get from one side of the street to the other often ends with an accident, officials said.

Increasingly, it's not just jaywalkers, but pedestrians in the crosswalk being bullied by drivers who don't want to stop, according to investigators.

"Hand gestures, cussing at them, yelling at them," said FHP Sgt. Kim Montes. "So there's a sense of these drivers that they have the right of way when they don't."

Orange County ranks among the most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians, with deaths up 22 percent. So the FHP will join Orlando police and Orange County deputies in aggressively stepping up enforcement.

The Florida Department of Transportation is taking surveys and spreading the message, "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow," even flying it by banner plane over downtown Orlando.

The goal is to cut deaths in half within five years.

"I knew we had a lot. It's one of our Top 3 mechanisms of injury at our hospital, but I didn't realize how bad we were in context with the rest of the nation," said Dr. John Promes, the Orlando Regional Medical Center Trauma Center director.

Promes said he had one patient admitted this week who was a pedestrian hit by a car.

She survived, but she suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he said she won't ever fully recover.