The challenging road ahead: Hwy. 98 safety: ‘We have to do something right now’

Pedestrian Safety, US Hwy. 98

This makeshift memorial on the side of Highway 98 near the Airport Road intersection is a constant reminder of a dangerous crossing. The memorial was placed in memory of Shelly Meadors, who was killed in a hit-and-run near the spot in 2002. The case remains unsolved.

Tina Harbuck | The Log
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 02:03 PM.

Crossing U.S. Hwy. 98 can be a risky proposition, so city leaders are determined to find a way to safely move pedestrians across the city’s main drag.

“We have to do something right now to make sure folks can get across that road,” Councilman Jim Wood said.

During a pedestrian safety workshop Tuesday night, city leaders and representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation and consulting firm Renaissance Planning Group met to discuss possible solutions for the stretch of roadway that’s been dubbed “Bloody 98.”

According to data from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, there have been 248 vehicle versus pedestrian, which includes vehicle versus bicycle, accidents in Destin since 2002. Just in 2012, there have been 35 incidents, which is the highest number of accidents in one year since 2007, where there were 28. According to law enforcement officials, there have been zero pedestrian fatalities in Destin in 2011 and 2012, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Based on a Log investigation in 2010, there were nine pedestrian fatalities during the decade in Destin. In 2011, Robert Crawford and Michael Brewster were both killed just outside city limits by motorists on Okaloosa Island. In Walton County, Galina Bumbalova and Kurt Lang Frankel were killed across the Walton County Line after being struck from behind while riding bicycles on the roadway.

“We’re inviting people to come down to the harbor and enjoy themselves, so it’s our responsibility to get people safely across the road,” Mayor Sam Seevers said. “The key is to make the decisions we need to in the short term first, then we can make decisions for the long term.”

Given that Hwy. 98 is the city’s only major east-west artery, city leaders are somewhat limited in the options they have available to them. While the goal is to safely allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, allowing traffic to continue flowing is also important.

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