WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SCHOOL BUS AND CAR COLLIDE

herman and 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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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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Is There Really a Need for Speed? — Not While Driving

Driving a vehicle above the set speed limit allowed for a particular street or neighborhood is always a dangerous risk.  The risk is not only to the driver but also to others in his/her path.  You can never tell when a child at play or someone’s pet may dart out in front of your vehicle without looking.  Are people in that much of a hurry?  Is there really a need for speed? — Not while driving.  Is speeding, to get to their destination just a tad earlier (maybe), really worth all the potential grief that could come from a speeding ticket, injuring someone, or plowing into someone’s home?  It surely wasn’t for a recent grad-to-be on Saturday, May 20, in Lakeland, Florida.

Teen Was Speeding And Lost Control 

A 19-year-old driver lost control of his SUV, hit a fence, and went airborne into the bedroom of a mobile home Saturday, May 20.  According to BayNews9.com, he told the fireman who responded that he had been speeding and lost control of his vehicle.  According to a neighbor, who had been badly shaken believing the vehicle was going to careen into her mobile home instead, the young man wasn’t concerned about any potential injuries he might have suffered; he was worried for anyone in the mobile home that he hit.  Fortunately, no one was home at the time of the crash.  The distraught young man told the neighbor that he was to graduate this year.

Speed Busters

Last year, News Channel 8 reported that a former St. Petersburg police officer was very concerned about speeding along 9th Avenue North.  Leslee Lacey of Speed Busters was called in to help.  This area is said to have had a high incidence of speeding for almost three decades.  On 9th Avenue North, the speed limit is 35 mph and radar guns have captured almost double that speed on many separate occasions.  In one six-month period in 2016, the Saint Petersburg Police Department issued 44 speeding tickets between 41st and 49th Streets.

30 Miles Over the Speed Limit

In Florida, penalties for exceeding 30 miles over the posted speed limit can result in an offense of reckless driving, which can result in a fine of $400 or more.  No “breaks” are generally given for offenders driving 30 mph above the posted speed limit.  This level of severity calls for a mandatory court appearance, four points on your driving record, and even a possible suspension of your driver’s license.  These penalties double, of course, if a driver is caught in a construction or school zone.  Again, is it worth it?

Time for Another Speed Study? 

The last speed study for the area between 41st and 49th streets was conducted in 2003, said Mike Frederick with the St. Petersburg’s Department of Traffic Engineering.  Another study was said to be in the works in the near future.  In the meantime, Ben Kirby of the City of Saint Petersburg was going to look at the possibility of having a “solar speed pole” installed on 9th Avenue.

“Your Speed” Signs

Signs drivers see that automatically tell them what speed they are driving can be helpful in speed awareness.  Pole-mounted solar-powered signs have bright characters that are nine inches tall and can be read at a distance of 450 feet.  A great many accidents occur every year due to drivers speeding in residential neighborhoods.  If you or a loved one has been affected by someone else’s “need for speed,” contact a St. Petersburg personal injury attorney to learn what options you may have for justice in such an event.

If you have been a victim of an accident involving a speeding vehicle, contact a Saint Petersburg personal injury attorney to learn your rights.  Medical expenses, recovery time, and lost wages due to time off for such an accident can be costly.


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