CRESTVIEW — The North Okaloosa County area, specifically Crestview, sees plenty of traffic accidents, particularly in certain areas.
Many accidents occur at Wal-Mart Drive and between Redstone Avenue and John King Road on Highway 85, where 35 accidents have been reported year to date, according to Sgt. Joshua Grace with the Crestview Police Department.
In 2017, 10 vehicle wrecks have occurred at the intersection of Highway 85/Ferdon Boulevard and Interstate 10; eight at the intersection with John King Road; eight at the intersection of Redstone Avenue; three at the intersection with Hospital Drive; two at the intersection with Cracker Barrel Road; two at the intersection with Wal-Mart Drive; one at the intersection with Rasberry Road; and one at the intersection with Southcrest Drive, according to police reports.
This year, there have been no fatalities from vehicle accidents in Crestview, but Crestview Police Department Public Information Officer Brian Hughes said many have come close.
Why are so many accidents happening in this area of Ferdon Boulevard between Redstone Avenue and John King Road?
“Just my belief — the most reasons they occur right there is about traffic congestion,” Grace said. “With that being our most heavily traveled area, and all the retail establishments and dining establishments that are in that area.
“It's kind of a bottleneck. It just creates a bottleneck on 85 because you have to travel that area to get from north to south because of the interstate. The city doesn't have a way to get around that area, with the interstate kind of creating a funnel.”
PROBLEMS ON PJ ADAMS PARKWAY
According to Crestview Police Department reports, 14 accidents have occurred on PJ Adams Parkway in 2017, with no fatalities.
“With PJ Adams, people try to run through a yellow light and it’s a red light, and people are coming the other way,” Hughes said. “They actually widened the intersection and added more turn lanes. If people paid attention, we wouldn’t have these problems.”
According to Hughes, the widening of the intersection happened around 2008. More intersection widening, and making PJ Adams a four-lane road, is planned for the future.
The county has planned construction on PJ Adams for several years, and it involves multiple phases. Officials want to make the road four lanes up to Interstate 10 and create an interchange with Antioch Road and Interstate 10.
According to the project report from 2009, “the proposed project (yet to be fulfilled) would increase capacity by providing additional travel lanes along PJ Adams/Antioch Road from South Ferdon Boulevard to Highway 90 West (James Lee Boulevard), a distance of 5.3 miles. An additional two-lane bridge would be constructed over Interstate 10 with consideration of a new interchange at Antioch Road and Interstate 10. A four-lane bridge will be evaluated where the corridor crosses CSX railroad. Stormwater management ponds, bicycle and pedestrian facilities are included.”
‘NOTHING WRONG WITH THE INTERSECTIONS’
Another wreck-filled area in Crestview is the intersection of Ferdon Boulevard and Highway 90, according to the police department.
So far in 2017, there have been eight reported accidents here, with no fatalities.
“That particular area is probably the main interstate in Crestview,” Grace said. “It has one traffic light and there's just so much congestion.”
County Road 188, also known as Airport Road in Crestview, also has many accidents. There have been 12 crashes here, year to date, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. Accidents can be serious due to the road’s sharp curves.
The latest accident on Airport Road occurred on March 19, when a man failed to negotiate a curve and his truck went into a slide onto the west shoulder of the roadway, struck a guardrail and began to overturn into a ditch. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. The man was transported to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, where he was in critical condition but survived.
“The main reason you’re having all these wrecks is because people just aren’t paying attention,” Hughes said.
“There is nothing wrong with the intersections, people just aren’t paying attention.”
ACCIDENTS INVOLVING PEDESTRIANS
There have been 31 accidents involving pedestrians this year in Okaloosa County, as reported by the sheriff's office. These include two Crestview fatalities.
On March 3, a 77-year-old man from Niceville was hit and killed while trying to cross Highway 90 to return to his vehicle located on the other side of the highway. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said he was involved in a separate traffic crash right before he was hit and killed.
On March 12, a pedestrian was fatally hit by at least two cars near the intersection of South Ferdon Boulevard and Griffith Avenue early in the morning during a rainstorm. Police said they believe the victim was trying to cross the street, and they are currently investigating the hit-and-run.
On March 30, two Crestview residents were struck by a vehicle as they were standing in the roadway of South Ferdon Boulevard at the intersection of Robinson Avenue. The two women stopped their vehicles after noticing a dog lying in the northbound inside lane of Ferdon Boulevard. A northbound vehicle, driven by a 17-year-old Crestview resident, struck the women as they examined the dog in the dark intersection. One woman was in critical condition and the other in serious condition, but both survived.
What should drivers do to avoid accidents? Grace said there’s a simple solution.
“They should always pay attention,” he said. “Working with the [police department] for the past eight years, I have seen a lot of wrecks, but particularly in the past year, we've seen a great increase in people texting and driving, and not paying attention.
“With the smartphones and things that people have access to, with Facebook and social media, they're not paying attention to where they're going.”