FDOT is scheduled to make 26 safety improvements to Gulf to Bay Blvd and S. Belcher in Clearwater

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A fatal accident involving a crossing guard prompted a multi-agency study into a Clearwater intersection that has seen 153 crashes between 2009 and 2013.

Of those crashes, 14 were incapacitating or fatal.

"The whole idea is to make this intersection safer," said Kris Carson, FDOT spokesperson.

The audit started back on July 8 and found 26 much-needed improvements for this stretch of road.

Problems listed in the study include:

  • Worn edges on line markings in the road
  • Incomplete re-striping of a crosswalk and stop bar
  • No turn restrictions out of a nearby Publix
  • A confusing pedestrian cross signal
  • Lack of advance street name signs
  • Low drainage capacity
  • Narrow sidewalks
  • Need for an additional traffic light
  • Lack of a right turn lane

 

FDOT, the City of Clearwater and Pinellas County are teaming up to make the improvements. Some changes are already under way. The Pinellas County School Board has banned students from crossing the congested intersection to get to school and say they will provide bus service.

Crossing guards at the intersection have already been removed and reassigned.

"They want DOT to go ahead and remove school crossing signs, but we would like to wait to make sure there are still no students using that crossing. And we are going to monitor the intersection," Carson explained.

Carson added new signage and re-striping crosswalks will only take a month. However, resurfacing of this main thoroughfare is slated to end in 2016.

Bus riders will also experience changes.

"We are going to try to move some of the bus stop locations closer to the intersection, so we encourage people when they get off the bus to actually use the pedestrian buttons instead of the signal at this signal light intersection," Carson added.

SCHOOL CROSSING GUARD FATALLY STRUCK

Crossing guard and retired police officer Doug Carey, 70, was killed in a chain reaction car accident on the morning of May 20.

According to Clearwater Police, red light cameras aimed at Gulf to Bay, caught Julious Johnson, 28, run the red light and plow into the other car causing a spin out.  Carey was hit at the corner and thrown at least 50 feet in the air, according to witnesses.

Before running from the scene, Johnson took his two-year-old out of her car seat and handed her off to a stranger, leaving his four-year-old in the road, who was ejected from the car.  

She was treated and later released.

CITY: INTERSECTION SECOND MOST DANGEROUS

The city ranks the intersection as the second highest for crashes.

In addition, red light camera data shows that in April 2014, more than 300 people ran the red light. In July 2013, more than 500 people ran the light.

Back in May, a crossing guard told ABC Action News he spotted 13 people run the red light in less than an hour.

"You know how many people I saw reading texts, talking by phone, by cell...incredible," the guard said.

Norman Runkles, a police aide who supervises all 67 employed crossing guards in the city, says guards rely on drivers obeying the lights and traffic laws.

"When drivers are cautious and they are looking around, they see that the guard is there, they slow down, all of that becomes a positive," Runkles said.

Runkles said parents can also help crossing guards do their job, and they don't even have to leave their home. He wants all parents to teach their children to look both ways before crossing a street and to also look behind them.

 

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