Panama City Beach officials working to make the city safer for pedestrians

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– According to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration, a pedestrian is killed every 88 minutes in the U.S.

October is National Pedestrian Safety month and lawmakers in Panama City Beach are developing plans to ensure that there are no pedestrian fatalities among tourists and residents.

So far, the city has reported one pedestrian death in 2020. Councilman, Geoff McConnell, said that number is already too high and has made it a priority in city plans to prevent more fatalities from occurring.

“We’ve seen a lot of issues out on our roadways with pedestrians being killed in our streets, so we want to make sure we have a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists to move about the city,” McConnell said.

This year, Panama City Beach City Council has allocated $400,000 of the city budget to go toward sidewalk construction.

In August, the council approved a sidewalk to be built along Panama City Beach Parkway from Nautilus Street to Powell Adams Road, which is set to be completed in Spring 2021.

McConnell said there is still more work to be done.

“The big push right now is that since we are accelerating a lot of our street resurfacing and CRA projects, to make sure we get these things done in a timely manner, I want to make sure that a lot of these pedestrians and cyclists can be taken care of at the same time,” McConnell said.

McConnell has asked for city staff to create a crosswalk plan to be presented on the city council on Nov. 12, but he hopes it will go beyond new sidewalk construction.

“It needs to be an overarching plan with a big communication effort from the media, as well as our social media, to let people know that it’s state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk,” McConnell said.

The Panama City Beach Police Department has recently applied for a grant from the state to help enforce pedestrian safety.

“It’ll be where we do certain nights of enforcement at certain locations where some of our higher accident rates are happening,” Panama City Beach Police Chief, Drew Whitman said.

If the department does receive the grant, it will go forth to the city council for approval.

Chief Whitman also said the department recently received a $50,000 grant from the state that will help cover the cost of overtime for officers on patrol to ticket drivers who are speeding and driving aggressively.

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