Curb the Curve: Airport Road sees large number accidents

Savannah Vasquez
A car sits on its side on Airport Road in Destin after the driver lost control and rolled it in front of the airport in February.

Over the past 15 months, there have been 32 traffic accidents along Airport Road.

Although this 1.6-mile stretch of road does not seem like a high incident thoroughfare, first responders say they are never surprised to hear a vehicle left the road or rolled over at the curved portion of Airport Road between Quail Circle and Mattie Kelly Boulevard.

This precarious curve also happens to be directly in front of the Destin Executive Airport.

“Dispatchers have to use the closest intersection to the incident but the majority of (the accidents) will be actually related to the curve,” said Richard McCoy, east district traffic deputy for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “A lot of them have been rollovers though. They lose control, overcorrect, hit the ditch and go off the side of the road. As soon as the tires catch, the vehicle rolls over.”

The Airport Road curve, between the intersections of Mattie Kelly Boulevard and Quail Circle, has accounted for 18 of the street’s 32 incidents between January 2015 and April 2016.

“The majority of them are due to inclement weather,” McCoy said, adding that about 17 of the 18 curve incidents were weather related. “It all goes back to the speed, but when you add the wet weather, that’s when we have a majority of calls come in.”

Airport Commons, is a multi-business complex near that intersection, and employees of the building said they have grown accustomed to witnessing incidents.

“There’ve been three cars that have flipped right there,” said RealJoy Vacations employee Jacob Dwyer pointing out the window. “There are accidents all the time with people taking too sharp of a turn and flipping or they hit the fence. Usually they are solo accidents.”

The curved portion of Airport Road has long been looked at as a hazardous area. The city even paid to put in flashing lights and a reduce speed sign to try to help curb the issue.

“Once they put them in there really wasn’t a significant decrease of incidents at the curve,” McCoy said of the lights. “People are still not paying attention to them or slowing down for the curve. The entire road is 35 miles per hour and we are suggesting 25 around the curve.”

Besides the warning signs and flashing lights, however, Destin Fire Chief Kevin Sasser said there is not much else to slow traffic along Airport Road.

“It’s a nice straight-away with nothing to impede the speed,” said Sasser. “If they are not making the curve, they are going too fast, but there is not much there to slow them down.”

McCoy said that he often sits along Airport Road in his patrol car to try to encourage motorists to slow down.

“When it starts to rain, I go out there and watch them and people still don’t slow down,” he said. “There are some days that I go out there running traffic and vehicles cruise through between 45-50 miles per hour easily.”