Fiol Law Group|Posted in Safety on November 27, 2017
Update: Due to a geocoding error, a previous version of this study described the zones as 500 feet within a school. In actuality, our data reflected 3520 foot zones around each school, or 2/3 of a mile. While this is a much larger area than previously described, it is still well within the normal school commute and our message of safety in school zones does not change. We have updated our rankings accordingly. – 1Point21 Interactive Staff
In 2016, 68 percent of all crashes in Florida occurred within 2/3 of a mile of a school – a total of 270,704 motor vehicle collisions.
Simply put, children and teenagers are exposed to a significant number of car crashes in Florida as they walk, bike, ride, or drive to school. With the help of data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive, we analyzed collision data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and cross-referenced it with school location data from the Florida Department of Education (elementary schools all the way up through high school).
As a result, these are the top 200 schools in Florida where students face the highest risk of car crashes.
Florida Schools: 200 High Crash School Zones
*The high grade column reflects the highest grade offered at each school.
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For our analysis, school zones are defined as the area within a 3520-foot radius of each school. Although the total is roughly 198,000 crashes across just 200 schools, it’s important to note that these are not all unique crashes. We frequently encountered overlapping zones among neighboring schools. Therefore, some crashes may be included in several different school totals. Additionally, some of these schools share the same building, but are listed as separate entries with the same number of crashes.
Our reasoning for not screening for unique crashes stems from the belief that awareness of the crashes takes priority over the “ownership” of collisions. Because they are not unique collisions does not devalue their importance and their danger to our children – a crash in three overlapping zones impacts student safety at all three schools equally.
With that being said, some notable schools in the top 10 include:
New World School of the Arts & School for Advanced Studies – Wolfson. Located on the Wolfson campus of Miami-Dade College, these magnet schools reside in the same building. This location tops the list at 2,297 crashes, which can likely be attributed to its central location in bustling downtown Miami.
Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School. A magnet school specializing in studies related to criminal law and law enforcement, this high school trailed shortly behind the top spot with 2,135 crashes. This school is also located in downtown Miami – in fact, it’s only three short blocks away from the #1 school.
Mater Academy Elementary – Primary Learning Center & Mater Academy Charter School. These are two of the few schools in the top 10 not located in Miami. Although this pair of charter schools reside just a half-mile from each other, the difference in number of crashes is significant: the former, ranked 4th in schools, recorded 437 more collisions than the latter, which ranked 10th. This disparity is likely due to the Primary Learning Center’s location immediately off the Palmetto Expressway, and may warrant further investigation.
Westland Hialeah Senior High School. This relatively new high school tallied 1,975 total crashes in 2016, ranking 6th on our list. Among the top 10, this was the only school in Hialeah and the only public, non-charter, non-magnet high school. These high amount of car crashes are likely due to its proximity to major shopping centers and high-traffic highways – including the Palmetto Expressway and US Highway 27.
Crashes in School Zones: All Florida Schools
This map below shows all schools in Florida. Larger circles indicates zones with higher crash volume, more intense colors indicate schools in close proximity. Data reflects all crashes in 2016.
To see a full screen version of this map, click here.
For further analysis, we grouped the results by major city, breaking the list down into top 20 schools by city.
Jacksonville is the most populated city in Florida, and the largest city by area in the United States. Despite that, Jacksonville schools as a whole had relatively low crash volumes: the top spot, occupied by LaVilla School of the Arts, ranked 126 out of 200 on our list of schools.
Although Miami has roughly half the population of Jacksonville, it has a staggering amount of car crashes in close vicinity of a school – 40 of the top 50 schools are located in Miami proper. This is likely due to the high population density, combined with a significant volume of traffic and a condensed city street plan.
The schools in Orlando had a lower volume of school zone crashes than Jacksonville, but the top school, Lake Eola Charter School, tallied 912 crashes – 132 more than the #2, the Orlando campus of Orange Technical College, a higher-education establishment. We decided to consider Orange Technical College a high school due to the half- and full-day programs it offers for those in high school seeking a career upon graduation.
Schools in Tampa generally had a lower volume of car crashes – only 4 out of the 20 rank in our list of 200 schools. Interestingly, the three schools with the most car crashes – Patricia J. Sullivan Partnership School, BT Washington Elementary, and Lee Elementary Magnet School – are within 1.5 miles of each other, with major arterial roadways and interstate highways close by. That may be a factor in the volume of crashes.
The schools in Hialeah are home to a large volume of car crashes, second only to Miami in quantity. The top three schools all rank within the top 50 schools in Florida, with the number 1 offender – Westland Hialeah Senior High School – recording about 700 crashes more than the next highest, Meadowlane Elementary School.
This is most likely due to geographic region. Westland is located in a commercial/business sector of Hialeah, within one block of the always-busy Palmetto Expressway. By contrast, Meadowlane Elementary is located in a predominantly residential neighborhood, sheltered by multiple blocks of homes and communities.
Regardless of location, a high volume of collisions occur at both of the schools, and is certainly worth investigating.
Compared to other major Florida cities, Tallahassee recorded a lower volume of car crashes near schools. In fact, only the top two schools ranked in the comprehensive list – and the #1 school, the School of Arts & Sciences Center on North Adams Street, moved to a new address in August 2016.
Taking that out of consideration, Leon High School remains the school zone with the highest volume of collisions in Tallahassee by far, recording 864 crashes in 2016 – 82 percent more than the next highest school. This could possibly be explained by the sheer size of Leon High – as one of the major public high schools in Leon County, it has the second-highest student body population in Tallahassee. More students equal more drivers, and more drivers increases the chances of an accident occurring.
Despite having a greater population than Hialeah, St. Petersburg contained schools that had the lowest crash volumes. Only one school in the city ranks in our top 200 school zones: MYcroschool Pinellas with 690 crashes. A public charter high school, the school zone ranks 1st in the city, but only 188th in the state of Florida.
Fort Lauderdale is the least populated city included in our breakdown, but it exhibited a high amount of car crashes near its schools. A common denominator for this seems to be their proximity to Sunrise Boulevard – 7 of the top 10 schools in Fort Lauderdale are located on or within one block of the street. Sunrise Boulevard is one of the busier corridors in the city, a high-speed arterial roadway with wide roads, high traffic, and high speeds – a recipe for pedestrian disaster.
The Importance of Safe Driving in School Zones
While it’s important to maintain safe driving habits every time you’re behind the wheel, it’s especially vital when you’re near a school. Adults and fellow drivers generally follow the rules of the road, but children are more unpredictable, and often do not comprehend proper pedestrian safety. At any second, a child may dart into the middle of the street with little or no warning.
And while the pedestrian death rate for children 19 and younger has maintained a steady downward trend in the past 20 years, the death rate for teenagers 12-19 hasn’t followed that. In fact, in the two years spanning 2014 and 2015, the pedestrian death rate for teens 12-19 years old has steadily increased by 13 percent.
Raising awareness about the dangers of motor vehicle collisions near our schools can help to curb that trend and eventually reverse it.
School Zone Safety Tips for Parents and Students
While pedestrian collisions and bicycle accidents involving students are rare, it’s important to recognize that they do happen, and they can be catastrophic. The goal of our analysis is simple: to identify high-risk areas so that parents can educate themselves and their children.
Fortunately our Tampa auto accident attorneys have identified a number of things we can do to improve driver safety around our schools.
As parents, there are a number of things you can do to improve the safety of your (and others’) children.
- Be an exemplary role model. Children often model their safety behaviors on your practices behind the wheel. Always wear a seat belt, always follow road signs and traffic signals, and never use your phone while driving.
- Practice safe drop-off and pick-up discipline. Be extra-cautious of pedestrians, and pay full attention to driving. According to a 2016 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, 1 in 10 drivers observed were distracted by mobile devices, and 1 in 3 displayed unsafe driving behaviors.
- Be respectful of school buses. Do not tailgate school buses, and always ensure you are driving carefully when they are stopped. NEVER pass a school bus with flashing red lights – not only is it illegal, but the probability is high that children may attempt to cross the street at the same time.
- Communicate to your kids about the importance of pedestrian safety. Ensure that they know the rules for crossing a road before they are allowed to walk to school, and ensure they are always walking on a sidewalk whenever it is available.
- Attend PTA and/or town hall meetings. If you’re concerned about proper driver safety protocol at your child’s school, attend school meetings to address your concerns and be proactive on the issue.
Many schools in Florida have implemented Safe Routes to School initiatives, which may include safety measures such as “walking school buses.” All parents should be familiar with these safe routes, whether or not their school is on our list.
Students can also keep things in mind when going to and from school:
- Stop distracted walking. The rising popularity of smartphones and music players has drastically increased distracted walking in students. According to a 2016 study in pedestrian distraction, 17 percent of middle school students and 27 percent of high school students were distracted by mobile devices, with headphones (44 percent) and texting (31 percent) being the largest offenses.
- Practice proper pedestrian safety. That includes using a sidewalk whenever available, looking multiple times before crossing a road, always crossing at crosswalks, and obeying all traffic signs and signals whenever applicable.
- Practice proper passenger safety. Always wear your seatbelt, and always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. If the student is younger, it’s recommended that they sit in the safer back seat.