A pedestrian was hit by a car in the Country Club Shores crosswalk Friday morning, prompting town officials to take action to make the crosswalks safer.
A man attempting to cross the Gulf of Mexico Drive crosswalk just north of Longboat Club Road was struck by a car traveling 45 mph just before 8 a.m. Feb. 5 while attempting to cross the Gulf of Mexico Drive using the crosswalk at the Country Club Shores beach access.
According to a Longboat Key police report, William Chamberland, 59, of Glastonbury, Conn., started walking westbound through the crosswalk from east when he was struck by a car driven by Longboat Key resident Sondra Wood.
Chamberland was walking approximately 6 feet ahead of Key resident Karen Roberts in the crosswalk when Roberts saw the car strike him.
There were no skid marks located on the road prior to Wood’s car striking Chamberland.
An incident report noted that Chamberland was struck and landed on the pavement 38.7 feet away from the point of impact. He sustained several scrapes and abrasions, two cracked ribs, large contusions on both legs and required seven staples to close a wound to his head, according to the police report.
Wood, 71, told police she was blinded by the sunrise cresting over nearby trees and didn’t see either pedestrian in the crosswalk. Both Wood and a motorist driving behind her at the time of the incident couldn’t confirm whether they saw crosswalk lights flashing. Roberts told police she pushed the crosswalk button, but police could not confirm if the lights were activated before Chamberland entered the crosswalk.
The crash came just four days after Mayor Jack Duncan urged the Florida Department of Transportation to fix what he described as “a very dangerous crosswalk situation before someone gets killed” at the Feb. 1 Longboat Key Town Commission meeting.
Commissioners have complained for weeks that cars aren’t stopping for pedestrians. They believe the signs are difficult to read and the flashing yellow lights should be replaced with red lights.
“If you think I’m going to try one of those crosswalks, you’re crazy,” Younger said at the Feb. 1 meeting. “People push buttons and think traffic is going to stop and step out in the road. And traffic isn’t going to stop.”
“We have cars going 50 mph down Gulf of Mexico Drive, and flashing yellow lights isn’t going to work,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz. “What we have now won’t accomplish what we want.”
Town Manager Dave Bullock had already sent a letter to FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway at the commission’s request following the Feb. 1 meeting to urge for better signage and for improvements to the crosswalks that include different lights and more visible pavement markers.
But when Bullock learned of the accident at the crosswalk, he emailed Hattaway at 8:30 a.m. that day, demanding immediate action from FDOT.
“This morning, a pedestrian was hit by a car at one of the crosswalksm just as we feared,” Bullock wrote. “He apparently activated the warning sign correctly, but the driver did not see the flashing lights and hit the person, resulting in serious injury.”
Bullock said the crosswalks need to be either be modified or removed.
“Secretary Hattaway, these crosswalks were to provide safe crossing of Gulf of Mexico Drive,” Bullock said. “Instead, they have proven to be a dangerous place that causes our citizens to be fooled into a sense of safety at great personal risk. FDOT needs to get on site TODAY and make corrections to these crosswalks so that our citizens can safely use them or if your staff doesn’t know how to fix them remove them before anyone else is hurt or killed due to the poor design of these facilities.”
FDOT officials arrived on the scene later that day and provided a layout for an additional sign at the crosswalks explaining how to use the crosswalks, which will be installed as soon as possible.
To speed up the process, the town has ordered and purchased the signs. Public Works employees will install them when the town receives them in a few days.
Police officers will also be stationed frequently near the crosswalks to make the crossings more visible as town staff pushes for more crosswalk improvements.