The central Florida city of Orlando, an international tourist magnet, is also the most dangerous metropolitan zone in the United States for pedestrians, mainly Hispanics, and so a campaign has been launched to try and avoid more traffic accidents involving people on foot.
"We're going to start today before another person gets hurt," said Linda Chair, director of Best Foot Forward, a Central Florida coalition that has undertaken the task of raising awareness among and about pedestrians and thus reducing the chances that they could become another statistic.
On the average, one pedestrian a week - and almost all of them of Hispanic origin - dies on the streets of Orlando, while every day two are hit by vehicles while they are trying to cross the street, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
In the Orlando metropolitan area, about 730 pedestrians are injured and 45 die each year in traffic accidents.
Thus, between 2000 and 2009, 557 pedestrians lost their lives tryig to cross local streets, according to the same source.
"It's important for our Hispanic community to be alert about this effort to teach them to cross the streets safely," Capt. Angelo Nieves, communications director for the Orlando police force, which is part of the coalition, told Efe.
The campaign seeks not only to teach the community to obey the rules for pedestrian traffic but also to raise awareness among drivers about their responsibilities in helping make the streets safer, Chair said.
According to an NHTSA study, although the reasons why Hispanic pedestrians become victims so frequently is not known - with an annual average of 545 Latinos dying trying to cross U.S. streets and being involved in 16.3 percent of all traffic accidents involving pedestrians - it could be due to the "different cultures," language problems and a lack of familiarity with the traffic in this country.
Meanwhile, the campaign will concentrate its educational efforts to change ingrained habits, like for example ignoring pedestrian crosswalks, it will also focus on drivers who don't respect pedestrians' right of way, Nieves said.
"We're known as the No. 1 tourist destination," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and "now we also want to be known as the safest city in the country for pedestrians." EFE