CRESTVIEW—Slow-moving traffic and delays aren’t the only things plaguing Crestview roadways. Accidents have spiked in recent years, including five pedestrian-related incidents in the past five weeks.
“What’s sad is that it’s not just Crestview we’re seeing these increases,” Police Chief Tony Taylor said. “Aggressive driving is everywhere now and drivers are more distracted.”
Whether it’s texting, talking on the phone, handling children in the back seat or something else, people’s eyes and attention are drifting further and further off the road. Yellow lights are also increasingly being treated as a ‘go faster’ signal rather than a ‘reduce speed’ signal, Taylor added.
Mix in dimly lit streets and a lack of crosswalks and it creates a series of traffic hazards for anyone on the road. Hazards that only increase as the city experiences continued growth.
The Florida Department of Transportation monitors and logs traffic reports, calculating how many vehicles pass through an area on any given day.
The most traversed area in Crestview is State Road 85 between Interstate 10 and P.J. Adams Parkway, which moves about 45,500 vehicles each day. Sections of S.R. 85 between I-10 and Williams Avenue range between 40,000 and 44,000 each day before reducing to about 38,000 at U.S. Route 90 (James Lee Boulevard).
The western section of U.S. 90 moves about 20,000 vehicles daily and the eastern portion about 10,000. Interstate 10 to the east of Crestview, by comparison, only moves about 22,500 vehicles daily.
City Engineer Fred Cook concurred that these numbers, which represent 2016 data, are an accurate representation.
Although the city population is just under 25,000 residents, the amount of traffic the city experiences each day far exceeds that number. Many locals can attest to increased drive times and traffic congestion but trying to beat these delays has resulted in accidents that cause more delays.
Poorly lit roadways were a factor in several pedestrian-related incidents in the last month. A man was hit and killed in a March 12 accident, two women were struck on March 29 and a young woman was hit April 9 — all occurring on Ferdon Boulevard, after dark.
S.R. 85 and U.S. 90 are not city roads and therefore must navigate through the state to make changes as simple as upgraded lighting.
The city’s public services department has been working on such improvements, however. In January, the department requested Gulf Power conduct a study on lighting along S.R. 85, with the goal of installing LED lights from I-10 to Airport Road.
That research continued into April and has been approved by the state for the upgrade, according to Mayor David Cadle.
Improved lighting only solves part of the problem when it comes to pedestrians. A lack of crosswalks leads to individuals crossing the road in areas where vehicles are at full speed and have the right-of-way.
One area of concern is Ferdon Boulevard.
After passing James Lee Boulevard while traveling north, the next “crosswalk” is over a half-mile away at Long Drive—which lacks a traffic light and offers nothing more than a painted crossing area. The next true crosswalk along this route is at Stillwell Boulevard, nearly a mile away from the previous one.
Several other areas throughout town similarly lack a crosswalk, but adding more would require the addition of traffic lights, which would further slow the flow of already congested traffic.
Although not driving on a roadway, pedestrians still play a role in traffic and can be injured or killed if proper attention isn’t given.
“Don’t depend on other drivers to see you,” Taylor said. While this holds true at night, pedestrians can be difficult to see during the daytime as well.
Taylor advises pedestrians to remain aware of their surroundings and especially when crossing any roadway. Even a less populated road can have vehicles turning onto it from a busier street. This means walking bicycles across roadways and putting away the cell phone.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
“There’s a whole basket of reasons for why people are distracted on the roads these days,” Taylor said. “That’s just our society now.”
The city is in the process of improving roadway safety and the CPD is exploring effective ways to step up traffic enforcement but drivers and pedestrians will always be at risk on roadways.
Crestview’s increasing population will only create more havoc on the roads and, until alternate routes are constructed, things are likely to get worse before they get better.