The Make Siesta Drive Safer campaign is focused on changes to the roadway, but some residents think impaired drivers are an equally pressing issue.
Even on a rain-soaked August night, more than 60 north Siesta Key residents came together Monday to discuss safety improvements near Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue.
The meeting, organized by the group Make Siesta Drive Safer, was held to update residents on the campaign’s work to date. Inspired by a fatal crash on the road in April, the group has lobbied the Florida Department of Transportation to make changes along State Road 758.
The group says it has a good relationship with FDOT, which is evaluating a lower speed limit and other changes from Siesta Drive and Osprey Avenue to Higel Avenue and Midnight Pass Road. Make Siesta Drive Safer’s next step is figuring out which changes the neighborhood supports.
“We’re going to set up a survey to find out what’s going to be appropriate,” said co-chairman Pat Wulf.
Residents at Monday’s meeting said more enforcement is necessary to reduce speeding and crashes. Sarasota Police Department Sgt. Bruce King, who oversees the SPD’s traffic unit, said this segment of Siesta Key poses a challenge for officers because it’s right next to the city limits.
“When you’re responsible for a big area, are you going to spend all your time on the outskirts of that area?” King said. “Probably not. You’re going to be a little more centrally located.”
Still, the department has instructed officers to pay attention to potential issues along Siesta Drive. The city has approved overtime for increased enforcement in the area, King said.
Those in attendance said drunken driving is a problem, particularly when people travel from Siesta Key Village back to the mainland on Friday and Saturday nights. King acknowledged the problem, but said DUI enforcement poses a challenge for law enforcement agencies in Florida.
“You’ll find that DUIs have the best attorneys on the defense side of any field out there,” King said. “It makes it a lot harder.”
Dee Reams, chairwoman of Make Siesta Drive Safer, encouraged residents to reach out to the Siesta Key Association to explore the possibility of a joint campaign against drunken driving. For now, however, the group remains focused on collaborating with the state, city and county to make road improvements.
“We need to continue to be persistent and nudge them when they slow down,” Wulf said.