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East County Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021 10 months ago

Beware perilous intersections in Lakewood Ranch area as school opens

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As school opens in Lakewood Ranch, east Bradenton area, watch out for construction, dangerous intersections.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Sitting at the intersection of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, I was in the left turn lane on a red light when I saw a tiny head bobbing past the front of my car.

It was a kid, probably about 7 years old, zipping across State Road 70.

What the heck? This kid was all alone, but appropriately, he was crossing on the proper "WALK" signal. Nevertheless, I was thinking "Who lets their 7-year-old cross this intersection all alone?"

Then the mom, and the 7-year-old's younger sister, came across, too, albeit about 20 yards behind the little sprinter.

Perhaps I am just a worrier, but you could barely see the little guy over the front of my car, which rides pretty low to the ground. I certainly don't trust drivers making legal right hand turns to check the roadway carefully before they rush toward work.

I have had parents in the past call my office and talk to me about the need for a pedestrian overpass at that intersection. There probably isn't enough foot traffic there to force such an action, but it certainly isn't a bad idea. With all the sprawl toward the east along State Road 70, plus a Lakewood Ranch Boulevard that now stretches to Fruitville Road to the south, the traffic only will get worse.

In any event, it is cause to stay an arm's length away from a child, who might need to be snatched in a dangerous situation.

I remembered back to my own son when we used to spend time in Berkeley, California, going to sporting events. My son grew up in California, where in certain places, like Berkeley, the pedestrians test their right-of-way all the time. I would see them walk in front of cars on purpose, forcing the drivers to slam on their breaks.

My word to my son always was the same. "If you are a pedestrian," I would say, "It doesn't matter if you are in the right. If you see a car coming and you step out in front of it, you might be right, but you also might be squished."

Please, I begged him, make eye contact if at all possible.

The first day for the School District of Manatee County is Aug. 10, and like always, intersections will be danger spots. Then consider lots of construction taking place on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and White Eagle Boulevard, adjacent to Dr. Mona Jain Middle School and B.D Gullett Elementary School, that will make some drivers squirrely. On White Eagle Boulevard at 44th Avenue, a new signal light seems to have been confusing motorists for the past month.

It doesn't make sense because that intersection always had been a four-way stop, but I've been seeing drivers plow through that intersection on the red like they are driving down the interstate.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office is trying to address dangerous intersections with High Visibility Enforcement Details that begins this month and runs through May 2022. Of the 18 intersections noted through the county, none are located in the Lakewood Ranch area.

However, on Tuesday, a Sheriff's Office deputy was parked just off the intersection of White Eagle Boulevard and 44th Avenue, in what could be considered a high visibility detail. I would imagine, and thankfully so, the Sheriff's Office is alerting motorists it won't tolerate unsafe driving near that intersection, and those schools.

Manatee County ranks in the top third of the 67 Florida counties in traffic crashes resulting in serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists. The High Visibility Enforcement Details aim to increase awareness and compliance with traffic laws that protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

One of the Sheriff's Office reminders is for pedestrians to make sure they are visible to drivers. Take note moms who have 7-year-old sprinters.

All the moms, and dads, should be warned that construction is being performed at both ends of White Eagle Boulevard, so you are going to have frustrated drivers, trying to make up time when they are late to work.

Whether you are a parent or a crossing guard as this school year begins, please keep the kids close.

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