The Most Dangerous Place To Walk

Where is the most dangerous place in the United States for pedestrians?  Speaking as a dedicated walker, I would say it’s anywhere that drivers aren’t paying careful attention — and, say, fail to look both ways before taking a right turn on red.  Many close calls are caused by simple driver distraction or failure to follow the basic rules of the road.

Car withh pedestriansThat’s a truism, but is there a geographic area where car-pedestrian accidents are most commonplace?  New York City, perhaps?  Or one of the car-culture cities in California?  Or maybe a party place like New Orleans, where the mix of impaired drivers and impaired walkers could produce collisions?

It’s none of those guesses:  instead, according to one recent study, the most dangerous place to walk is the Orlando region of central Florida.  The study found that, between 2008 and 2017, nearly 50,000 people walking the streets of the United States — 49,340 to be precise — were killed by collisions with vehicles.  Of that number, 5,433 pedestrians died in Florida accidents, and 656 died in the Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee metropolitan area.  In fact, the study found that the six most deadly metropolitan areas for walkers in the U.S. are all in Florida.

The article doesn’t offer explanations about why Florida is a death trap for pedestrians, but some contributing factors seem obvious.  First, it’s got a lot of older drivers who probably are not operating at peak mental or physical condition.  Seniors who get behind the wheel when they are experiencing declining eyesight, failing hearing, and slowing reflexes obviously pose a greater risk of accidents.  And Florida’s tourist destination status means that many of its drivers on any given day are likely to be visitors who are unfamiliar with traffic patterns or pedestrian walkways.  And some of them might be distracted by, say, overexcited kids who are ready for the Magic Kingdom and are raising a ruckus in the back seat.

There’s a lesson lurking in all of this:  if you want to walk in Florida, do it on a beach.  The streets are just too dangerous.

Florida In July

What could be more inviting than a trip to Florida in July? The sun is powerful enough to strip paint, and the humidity exceeds any measuring device known to science. Even the boats seem too hot to do anything. But the “early bird” specials continue to be offered, in case you’re wondering.

Florida in July also tests the capability of the human body to adjust to abrupt and extreme changes in temperature. You go from frying pan heat outside to blood-congealing cold when you enter any hotel air-conditioning zone. For the glasses wearer, that means one thing: lenses so hopelessly fogged that you’re effectively rendered blind and left stumbling in your search for the reception desk.

What’s good about Florida in July? Well, it’s not crowded.

Federal Bureau Of Incompetence

In the wake of the latest awful school shooting, in which 17 students and teachers were killed in Florida and another 15 people were injured, there has been a lot of talk about guns and gun control.  That debate is entirely warranted, but I hope that there is also room for broad discussion about the performance of law enforcement agencies — from the FBI on down.

Last month, the FBI received a specific, credible warning about the accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz.  A person close to Cruz contacted the FBI’s Public Access Line on January 5 and described Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill others, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts.  The FBI acknowledged that it received the tip — but did nothing, in violation of its own internal rules.  In a statement, the Bureau said:  “Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.”

Nikolas-Cruz-919429And it certainly appears that, if somebody from the FBI had actually looked into the tip, they would have found a lot of very disturbing information about Cruz, from troubles in school and a recommendation that a “threat assessment” be performed on Cruz, to a self-mutilation post and other troubling activities on social media and a comment on a blog about being a “professional school shooter,” to multiple calls about Cruz and his erratic behavior to the local sheriff’s office.  It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that, if somebody had just followed up on the tip, the massacre might have been avoided.

A statement from Christopher Wray, the Director of the FBI, about the FBI’s failure to act said:  “We are still investigating the facts. I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular matter, as well as reviewing our processes for responding to information that we receive from the public.” He also said:  “It’s up to all Americans to be vigilant, and when members of the public contact us with concerns, we must act properly and quickly.”  But in this instance, Americans were vigilant and did report on concerns arising from disturbing behavior — and the FBI totally dropped the ball.

According to its website, about 35,000 people work for the FBI.  The Agency’s annual budget is more than $8 billion.  In short, the FBI has a lot of resources.  Given the number of mass shootings we’ve seen in this country, in schools and otherwise, it’s unfathomable that a credible tip to the FBI about a potential mass killer would be ignored.  If the FBI doesn’t follow up on such tips, what in the world is it doing?  And while it’s nice to know that FBI Director Wray is going to investigate the Bureau’s failure to investigate the tip about Nikolas Cruz, we might want to make sure that the FBI’s conduct is investigated by people who won’t drop the ball this time.

That Overcrowded Feeling

There are some airports that always seem to be incredibly overcrowded.  The Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport is one of them.  Is it because it’s the end of “the season”?  Is it because the airport just hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the surrounding community?  Is it because airport planners think it’s hilarious to cram people into concourses like sardines in a tin can?

Who knows?  But it’s not a pleasant way to start, or end, a trip to the Sunshine State.

Meanwhile, Back At The Shuffleboard Court . . . .

You have to wonder whether it ever bothers the people of Florida that everyone else in the country views it as an enclave for octogenarians.  No surprise there — Florida has the largest percentage of senior in the country, with almost one in five residents above the age of 65 and one county where more than half the residents fall into that category.

wvc_seniorgames_0920123Stories like this one, about a “shuffleboard rage” incident in St. Petersburg, aren’t going to help Florida’s retiree rep.  It reports that an 81-year-old guy was charged with battery after getting into a fight with another man during a shuffleboard tournament at a seniors center.  The feisty octogenarian reportedly punched the victim in the face and hit him with his shuffleboard cue, scratching the victim’s face.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t report certain crucially important details, like what provoked the incident, and whether the two men were wearing colorful plaid Bermuda shorts hitched up to nipple height and support hose at the time of the altercation.

What would it be like to live in the Sunshine State, home to millions of slow-walking, bad-driving, loudly attired seniors wearing bulky hearing aids?  I think it would be strange and depressing to live in a place where there are so many older people relative to the rest of the country.  Now we learn that the state might be somewhat dangerous for the many shuffleboard fans among us, too.

Honoring A Promise To Mom

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Mom and Dad bought a condo on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida in the late ’80s.  It became a special place for them.  When Dad retired a few months after they bought the condo, they began to spend more and more time in this enclave of seagrass, windswept beaches, and crashing surf.  I think Dad would gladly have moved down here full-time, but Mom wanted to keep a place in Columbus to spend time with kids and grandkids.  So they compromised, as successful married couples do, and split the years equally between their condo at Suntide and a condo in Columbus.

They spent many happy years here, and made many friends.  The kids and grandkids enjoyed the condo, too.  It was a great place to take little children, with a sunny pool and a beach and sandcastle building and boogie board riding and shell-gathering only a few steps away.  Kish, Richard, Russell and I came down here regularly, and so did my siblings and their kids.  We all have strong memories of this place.

Dad died in 1997.  He wanted his remains to stay here, and we honored that request.  The kids got older, the visits to the condo became less frequent, and Mom wanted to spend more time in Columbus with her kids and Columbus friends.  Eventually we sold the condo at Suntide, but Mom always said that after her death she wanted her remains to be brought here to be with Dad, always and forever.  We promised we would do so.  And this weekend all of the kids and grandkids are here to honor that promise and think once more of Mom and Dad and their little piece of paradise.

Mom and Dad and the condo are gone, but the sand and surf and sun — and memories — remain.  I got up early this morning to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, and it was as beautiful as I remembered.  Mom would have liked it.