Ask Milly Because She Knows – Today’s Question – Why are those so many accidents in Pasco County?
If you live in Pasco County, Florida you are at a greater risk for being in a car accident than anywhere else in the state of Florida. Pasco injury wrecks are more than double the state average. It has improved significantly from it’s unsightly apex at the beginning of the 21st century as law makers and county planners are doing a better job of assessing and correcting significant risk spots here in the county. A lot more still needs to be done before we are all safe and this is no longer a lethal issue.
The most dangerous road remains US Highway 19 in West Pasco. Grim statistics that showed over 100 people a year were being killed on that highway sparked a strong community response. Police began conducting traffic safety blitzes on US 19, volunteers handed out blinking lights for pedestrians to carry or wear and newer and easier to read street signs went up. The Department of Transportation (DOT) installed new traffic lights along a 14 mile corridor of US 19 throughout most of the unlit route. Other DOT improvements included sidewalks, channelized medians and a continuous right-turn lane to allow through traffic to pass by slow moving motorists looking for a business address.
Despite all these improvements, Pasco roads remain more dangerous than the rest of the Tampa Bay region, the state of Florida and the nation. We all have to work together to change this. We all have a part to play in making Pasco County roads safer. Let’s discuss some of the reasons why this is still such a big problem in our area. And then, let’s address some solutions and the part we can all play.
10 Reasons Why Pasco County Roads are unsafe
1. Pasco County has seen huge increases in population in the past two decades, especially school aged children that need to be bused or walk to school. The percentage actually increased even further in Pasco County this past decade with the completion of the Veteran’s Highway that provides a much easier commute now for people to work in Tampa and take advantage of the lower housing costs in Pasco County.
2. The county continues to develop the land at incredible rapid rates to meet the demands of all of these new consumers. Every strip mall, new big box retailer and housing complex that is built adds to the congestion and infrastructure deficiencies. This area and these roads were never meant for this many people and construction projects are sometimes rushed to meet demand without properly assessing the implications to public safety specifically where it comes to driving and pedestrian safety.
3. Pasco County has a very large opioid problem. Pill mills and other unscrupulous medical practitioners are dispensing level one narcotics at alarming rates. The state legislature has done a good job of combating this and making a system that is harder to circumvent but it is not impossible and way too many people are popping pills and driving. This cannot be detected by a roadside blood/alcohol test and driving while under the influence of opiods often goes unchecked by employers, loved ones and other enablers of drug abusers.
4. Speeding or aggressive driving – At some points along its way, US 19 is a highway and at other points it is a local street with traffic lights. People tend to not slow down to the reduced speed limit within local areas of US 19 and on the highway stretches, vehicles are often clocked at absurd speeds ranging from 80 to 100 miles an hour.
5. Careless or distracted driving – This can include anything from texting or talking on the phone while driving, eating or talking to people in the back seat of the car, make-up application and searching for a store or a person you are picking up.
6. Police have cited more drivers in Pasco county than any other county for failing to stay in a lane and or running a light or stop sign.
7. Roads are old, falling apart and are too narrow for the amount of drivers in Pasco County.
8. In some cases, response to the traffic flow and public safety problems can be slowed down by buracratic breakdowns, greedy developers and political maneuvering.
9. Progress just happens way too quickly. Growth is great. Unmanaged growth is dangerous.
10. County officials and the public at large tend to have a reactionary mindset instead of a preventive mindset that assesses and gets in front of critical public safety issues like growth management as it pertains to traffic flow and public safety.
What do we do now?
So what can be done? Pasco county is being aggressive now in widening streets and adding in the safety precautions I mentioned earlier. A pedestrian bridge over US 19 is a key to improved safety. County planners and developers are having more public planning or information sessions that we are all encouraged to attend and scrutinize. We can all become better, less distracted drivers that speed less and look more. You can also avoid major intersections like US Highway 19 during peak drive hours from 8 – 9 am and 5 -6 PM. That’s when alot of the accidents occur.
The biggest thing we need to do is to change all of our mindsets from reactionary to preventive. Fixing the problems after people get hurt or die isn’t working and we need to be more concentrated in our efforts and intentions when addressing public safety issues like these. We also need to better educate the public of how to drive safely, not just for DUI’s but for all traffic issues. This needs to be taught in school to kids when they are young so that this is ingrained in them well before they become drivers. We can’t necessarily fix the current lazy, distracted or negligent bad drivers but we can stop it from happening to the generations to come by being proactive, thorough and determined. None of us can say that we are a perfect driver and a wonderful steward of our roadways, but we can all improve and via example encourage others to do the same. The life you save may very well be your own. I have a daughter and I want her safe and sound on the road. We all want our kids to be safe. The time is now. I intend to lead the charge towards safer streets. We can and we will fix this problem. Too many lives are at stake, so we must put aside any personal differences or personal needs and think of the greater good here.
If you have any questions about this issue or if you wish to join me in helping to create a safer environment for all drivers in Pasco County, call my office at 727-376-9100.