Author Archives: Clifford Wells

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SCHOOL BUS AND CAR COLLIDE

It’s that time of year again – time for all vehicles to be on the lookout for children going back to school in Saint Petersburg and everywhere else in Florida. It is extremely important for motorists to watch for children crossing roadways near schools and always watch for a school bus. An intersection with or without a crossing guard can still be extremely dangerous for children. Even when being driven in a school bus, parents have to be aware of the possibility of a collision with another vehicle while children are en-route to school.

SCHOOL BUS COLLISIONS

An accident involving a vehicle and a school bus occurred on August 17 in Pine Hills, Orange County, FL at the intersection of Silver Star Road and Willow Bend Boulevard. It was not immediately known if there were students on this bus but two people were transported with injuries. In January 2017, three accidents involving school buses happened in one day, all three involving Pinellas County schools. One involved a collision with an SUV. Thankfully, no students were injured in any of these collisions. One incident involved the driver of a school bus failing to stop at a stop sign. In one of the other two accidents, a school bus driver was arrested on DUI charges. The third incident involved a bus running into a pole after it was struck by a car.

STUDENTS WORKING TO PREVENT ACCIDENTS

Sit up and take notice of Makayla Trowell, a 14-year-old girl who wrote a letter to 8 On Your Side because she was very concerned about the traffic speeds outside her school. The road in question for Trowell was in front of Crews Lake Middle School. Upon further inspection by Leslee Lacey, a WFLA traffic reporter, it was discovered that, besides speeders near the school, there was no traffic light and no “School Zone” sign along the busy road. There was only a “suggested” speed limit sign of 35 mph along the road in question, Shady Hills Road. There is also a “blind curve” that can be another cause of trouble for the area. Reporter Lacey clocked drivers at 64 mph during school hours with her Speed Busters radar gun.

Further investigation showed that at least 13 crashes had been recorded in that area within a one-year period. When Leslee Lacey addressed these concerns with Pasco County Traffic Operations Manager, David Skrelunas, he “told Leslee one of the reasons the school lacked a designated school zone was because it’s entrance was not directly on Shady Hills Road. However, Leslee found there is a designated school zone on nearby Hudson Avenue, yet the school entrance is not along Hudson Avenue.”

Thanks to Makayla Trowell’s letter and the follow-up of WFLA Traffic Reporter Leslee Lacey, the Pasco County Traffic Operations Department decided to create a designated school zone in that area. Now, there is a flashing “School Zone” sign that tells drivers not to go over 15 mph during school hours. Fines for abuse of that law have also been doubled. Makayla is very excited as she was greatly concerned about the safety and well-being of her school friends. Speed Busters radar gun wielder and traffic reporter Lacey have since been back to the scene and discovered that the sign has, indeed, made a difference and the speeds of vehicles passing through that area have been greatly reduced.

ONE VOICE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Makayla Trowell has realized through this encounter that she did, in fact, effect change and that one voice can make a difference. Trowell’s story should give us all hope and a new determination to try to implement change where it is most needed. Makayla has since been honored by her school, as well as Pasco County, for her resolve to make a difference.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a vehicle accident in St. Petersburg, contact a personal injury lawyer to determine your rights for recourse as a result of that accident.


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Is Bicycling Safe in Florida?

At a U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2015 in Washington, D.C., then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (serving from 2013-2017) implored the gathering to make a commitment to improving the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. The former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina stated, “Overall, automobile crashes have declined in the last five years, but the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed by automobiles has actually risen.” Is bicycling safe in Florida, in Saint Petersburg, or anywhere?

CDC STATISTICS FOR FLORIDA

In August 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that gave Florida the highest rate for bicycling deaths in the United States with “0.57 per 100,000 people, more than double the nationwide rate of 0.23 per 100,000.” Even worse than that dismal statistic is the fact that, while other states have made progress in reducing bicycle deaths in their state, Florida has hardly made a small dent in reducing their numbers. Largely because they have done nothing about the problem.

Statistics on bicycle-car crashes for the United States nationwide indicate that “… bicyclists die on U.S. roads at a rate double that of vehicle occupants …” DeWayne Carver of the Florida Department of Transportation, as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, is quoted as saying, “We’re not sure to what extent the roadways are dangerous, and how much of the problem is the number of people using the roadways.”

NHTSA STATISTICS FOR THE UNITED STATES

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in March 2017 that “The number of pedalcyclists killed in 2015 is 12.2 percent higher than the 729 pedalcyclists killed in 2014, while there were 10 percent fewer pedalcyclists injured than the estimated 50,000 injured in 2014.” The NHTSA identified a “pedalcyclist” as “bicyclists and other cyclists including riders of two-wheel, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles, and unicycles powered solely by pedals.” Key findings from the study are:

• Pedalcyclists’ deaths in 2015 accounted for 2.3 percent of all traffic fatalities, numbering 818.
• 70 percent of the pedalcyclists who died in 2015 from crashes with motor vehicles happened in urban areas.
• The average age of pedalcyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents raised in 2015, from 41 to 45.
• Males were six times more likely to die in a fatal pedalcyclist accident than females.
• Of all pedalcyclist crashes in 2015, alcohol was involved in 37 percent of the time.
• More than 27 percent of pedalcyclists whose accidents resulted in death in 2015 had a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.1 g/dL or more.

PASCO COUNTY HIT-AND-RUN

On May 16, 2017, Fox 13 news reported on an accident that sent a teenage boy flying from his bicycle. Thankfully, the teenager, Johnny Walsh, Jr., age 14, did not sustain any injuries from the event. Also, thankfully, security cameras on a nearby home caught the incident on film. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Walsh was struck by a speeding SUV that sped through a stop sign and lost control of the vehicle on Moog Road. The driver drove into a yard, hit a mailbox, and struck a parked car before hitting Walsh on his bicycle. The driver did not stop and, after striking Walsh, went on to hit yet another mailbox and the debris from that mishap struck a 12-year old bicyclist. According to Jacki Lily, who shared the security camera video with news outlets, there were other children nearby that could potentially have been harmed by the actions of this SUV driver. The Florida Highway Patrol is still searching for the driver. The vehicle was described as a “… gold Ford Expedition with Florida tag GYCT99.” The description of the driver was given as “… a while male with light brown or blonde hair , 20 to 30 years of age.”

It’s not just about bicycling or being a pedalcyclist; it’s about other drivers on the road, too. Serious consequences can occur if each is not treated with concern and respect, and if laws are not followed. If you or a loved one have been on a bicycle and hit by a car, or pedalcycle and have been hit by a car, contact a personal injury attorney to see how to navigate your claims against the driver’s insurance.


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Shifting Loads on Semi-Trucks can be Hazardous to Nearby Drivers

Many factors can contribute to driving accidents involving semi-trucks, or tractor-trailer “big rigs.” One of those factors is how well and how evenly distributed their cargo has been proportioned by those loading the truck before travel. The positioning of cargo in the semi-truck directly correlates to the amount of weight placed on each of the truck’s axles. If this basic, and very important, step in loading a truck, is not treated with the care it deserves, a truck driver’s cargo load could easily shift through travels. Shifting loads on semi-trucks have caused numerous accidents. If a semi-truck is not properly balanced, it could potentially tip and cause other motorists to become involved in an accident on Saint Petersburg highways.

LOG TRUCK IN PASCO COUNTY

On May 15, a log truck travelling on Interstate 75 in Pasco County was involved in just such an accident. The cargo in this case was a load of logs. The semi-truck driver was headed north on I-75, close to State Road 52, when his load of logs shifted. The truck flipped onto its side, as typically happens when loads shift (whether freight is on the inside of the truck or on the outside). The driver, having lost control of the truck, then ran into a concrete barrier. Both northbound and southbound lanes of I-75 felt the impact from this accident as troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol had to shut down lanes to manage the after-effects.

ROLLOVER CRASHES

The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine released “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study” in 2008 that was undertaken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This study particularly examined rollover crashes involving tractor-trailers. The study identified the four main reasons for big rig rollovers:

• Speed and failure to adjust to curves on the road;
• Being inattentive; drivers falling asleep at the wheel;
• Oversteering to correct an inadvertent wrong turn of the wheel; and
• Cargo loads not being correctly placed or not balanced.

This study also concluded that “… rollovers are the deadliest crashes, occurring with particular frequency on freeway ramps and inclines …” This can happen in St. Petersburg just as well as anywhere else in the country.

CLASS D LICENSE IN FLORIDA

Rules and regulations are in place to help prevent improperly loaded trucks from using Florida’s highways and, thereby, trying to prevent potential semi-tractor truck crashes due to this cause. Chapter Six, Class D License, as printed on the State of Florida website, in the section of “Limitations on Loading; Securing the Load” outlines as follows:

“You may not drive or move any loaded vehicle on the highway if the load is not secure. The load must not be able to drop, shift, leak, or otherwise escape. You must use a close-fitting cover when hauling loads which could fall or blow onto the roadway. Examples: dirt, sand, lime-rock, gravel, silica, trash or garbage. Every [semi-tractor trailer] truck carrying logs or pulpwood must use proper equipment, including lock chains that will securely fasten the load.”

ACCIDENTS

The reality of the situation is that crashes can and do happen. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident in St. Petersburg with a semi- truck due to improperly loaded freight or loads that have gotten out of balance, perhaps causing a rollover crash, it is wise to speak to a personal injury attorney to determine what recourse you may be allowed to seek for any injuries or damage suffered.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

Semi-tractor trailers and even some dually trucks have black boxes similar to those in airplanes. However, once they are repaired, and sometimes even before hand, the recording of the speeds and delta V which are recorded get erased before your personal injury attorney can get to the truck with an engineer to download the information, losing valuable proof. Please do NOT wait to call.


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Diverging Diamond Traffic Pattern Assists Traffic Flow

The “diverging diamond” has many positive believers but still a few skeptics as well.  This type of traffic pattern has been used in 22 states so far, to try to ease traffic congestion in busy intersections.  Florida opened its first Diverging Diamond traffic pattern recently on Interstate 75 along University Parkway.  It was two years in the making.  Motorists have already indicated that back-ups seem to be shorter.  One driver who encountered the new traffic configuration said that, at first it was confusing, but also exciting.  She raised the question of drivers not paying attention, especially in the beginning while still getting accustomed to the new configuration, and worried about getting “side-swiped.”  When all the work has been completed, University Parkway will have six westbound and six eastbound lanes, with extra lanes on I-75.  This construction was part of the I-75 corridor widening project.

Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI)

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been trying to provide solutions for highly congested traffic areas, while also keeping safety standards in place.  The Diverging Diamond Traffic Pattern is one creative concept that is getting a lot of attention and becoming very popular.  Its features include:

  • It crosses traffic to the left side of the roadway.
  • It allows for left turns at signals, continuing onto access ramps without a crossing conflict.
  • At crossovers, two-phase signals are installed.
  • It reduces crossing conflicts from four (traditional diamond) to two, which, in theory, should reduce the number of accidents.
  • It offers better sight distance.
  • Pedestrian crossings are shorter.
  • Gaining entry to a ramp while going the wrong way is virtually eliminated.
  • It is a low-cost solution because it minimizes the funds needed for the new infrastructure.

The first DDI opened in 2009 in Springfield, Missouri.  Since that time, nearly every state in the United States (and including Puerto Rico) has a DDI that is either operational, in construction, in study, or a few states have even adopted a more advanced design of the system.  There are at least eight DDIs under consideration of implementation in the State of Florida.  When will one appear in Saint Petersburg?

Results

In Charlotte, North Carolina, reports have indicated a 60 percent reduction in accidents since a DDI opened in 2014.  Statistics across the country have had similar results, so it would appear that, overall, the DDI has been met with success.  The best feature of a DDI is that it has a reduced number of traffic conflict points.  The 60 percent number was obtained by looking at periods of nine months before and after the construction of the DDI at Interstate 77’s Exit 28.  In December 2017, the North Carolina DOT is scheduled to let a contract for the construction of another DDI at Exit 23 along I-77.  A number of DDIs have been implemented and still more are being planned in North Carolina.

Impact On Traffic Accidents

The DDI design has the potential to have a very beneficial impact on traffic accidents in St. Petersburg in the future and all around the State of Florida.  Any measures that can be taken to lessen the number of automobile accidents and crashes should be applauded.

If you are involved in an automobile accident, or as a pedestrian trying to cross an intersection, and you have suffered injuries, speak to a personal injury attorney to ensure you know all the courses of action available to you.

 

 


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03:54 19 May 15
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