PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Drivers call it a “recipe for disaster,” a highway so dangerous its nickname is: “death valley.”
There are thousands of crashes, dozens of deaths and US 19 is one of the most congested roadways in Tampa Bay.
Pinellas County deputies are stepping up enforcement along the highway, targeting distracted, aggressive and speeding drivers. It comes on the heels of our stories showing the sheer danger of driving along the highway.
We asked drivers, every time you get behind the wheel and you're about to pull onto US 19, what goes through your mind?
“Fear,” business owner Ryan Goodman said.
“Chaos,” driver Jim Eicholz chimed in, “That road is like a prescription for disaster."
Friday, it didn’t take long to see the problem. Within a minute of Corporal Wayne Zelinsky running radar, we found a driver zooming down US 19 at 77 miles per hour, that’s 22 miles over the speed limit.
Eicholz says it happens daily, “I’m going 50 or 55, which is the speed limit, and people are passing me like I’m standing still.”
Pinellas County Deputies will spend the next 8 weeks writing tickets, giving warnings and making themselves visible, all in an effort to stop the mad dash down US 19.
“The safer we can make it the better,” Corporal Zelinsky said, “with the number of crashes and fatalities, we just want to make sure people get home at the end of every night.”
The traffic enforcement will run until April 1st along U.S. Highway 19 from Pinellas Park to Tarpon Springs. At first, deputies will focus on giving warnings. Then, starting Thursday, February 15, they’ll switch to citations.
At the end of the initiative, the Intelligence Led Policing Division will analyze crash data to determine the effectiveness of the initiative.