Man's death underscores pedestrian hazards in St. Pete Beach

Cheryl Miller was celebrating Thanksgiving at her son’s house near 134th Avenue in Madeira Beach when she heard a loud noise outside, so she walked out to Gulf Boulevard to see what caused it.

“I noticed a man laying down in the street,” she said. “I looked, and I thought, 'This man is dead. Who is this person?'" Miller recalled.

She later discovered the victim was her brother, who had special needs. 

“This road is very dangerous,” she told FOX 13. “It's a death trap.”

According to the accident report from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, 58-year-old Paul Richard Miller was trying to cross Gulf Boulevard when he was hit and killed by the driver of a Jeep Liberty.

According to statistics from the Department of Transportation, 10 pedestrians have been killed on Gulf Boulevard since 2010. Dozens more have been injured, both in and out of crosswalks.

Miller said too many pedestrians have been hit along Gulf Boulevard and more could be done to make the area safer for pedestrians, drivers and tourists.

Though 134th Avenue is a beach access point, there are no marked crosswalk. Miller said her brother, like many others crossing Gulf Boulevard to get to the beach, didn’t take the extra five minutes to walk to a marked crosswalk.

“Yes, jaywalking is illegal. However, there are not enough crosswalks on this street. There should be crosswalks at each beach access,” she said.

Attorney Andres Oliveros, who represents the estate of Paul Miller, contends that pedestrians who make the effort to use marked crosswalks have minimal protection, because the flashing yellow lights at some marked crosswalks could confuse some drivers. 

“When you get there, when you see someone there, you don't know if you really should stop,” he said. “There's a blinking yellow light; what exactly does that mean? Should I slow down, am I going to get rear-ended?”

Oliveros said the Miller family has not ruled out filing a lawsuit against local roadway authorities or the driver of the Jeep Liberty. The wife of the driver, 80-year-old Everett Pyle Jr., told FOX 13 she had no comment about the fatal accident.

“I think it's important for the entire Tampa Bay area to recognize that we do have a problem with pedestrian fatalities at the beach,” Oliveros said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the flashing yellow lights were installed as a warning there could be pedestrians trying to cross in the area.

Drivers aren’t required to stop for the flashing yellow lights themselves, but they’re required to stop any time a pedestrian is in a crosswalk. Drivers are also required to yield to people crossing the road, even if the pedestrian is jaywalking. 

PCSO is using a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to provide extra patrols near hot spots for pedestrian accidents through May, including certain portions of Gulf Boulevard.  A spokeswoman for the agency said deputies will focus on educating the public on pedestrian and bicycle safety, which can include issuing warnings and citations to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.