8 ON YOUR SIDE: Middle school student concerned about road safety

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Crews Lake 8th-grader remains frustrated with an intersection outside of her Pasco County middle school. She reached out to 8 On Your side after witnessing a crash and dangerous driving outside of Crews Lake Middle School.

The intersection is located on Shady Hills Road and Crela Drive and Softwind Lane. Softwind was recently realigned at Shady Hills which creates a “plus” type intersection instead of the former “t” intersection. Pasco county traffic operations

Pasco County Traffic Operations says the new alignment solved an elevation issue and was created to increase safety at Softwind and Shady Hills. But many local parents and kids want a designated school zone and a traffic signal installed.

Makayla Trowell is a 14-year-old Crews Lake student who believes she knows a dangerous road when she sees one, and it’s right in front of her school. That’s why she contacted 8 On Your Side. Makayla says speeding is the big issue, and drivers are not aware of her school location.

A “cautionary” yellow school sign with a suggested speed of 35 mph is on Shady Hills Road. But it’s not an enforceable sign, such as the white signs with black writing in typical designated school zones. Traffic reporter Leslee Lacey tested out Makayla’s theory with the 8 On Your Side radar gun.

Lacey tracked vehicles traveling up to 64 mph through the intersection. She also attained information from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol that listed a total of 13 crashes over the last year within one mile of the intersection. Three crashes were at the intersection.

Pasco County Traffic Operations manager David Skrelunas says because the entrance to Crews Lake is on Crela Drive, and not Shady Hills Road, they don’t have a designated school zone there. However seven miles away on Hudson Avenue there is a designated school zone with an enforceable reduced speed. However, Hudson Middle and High schools are not accessed directly from that road. Lacey reports despite the contradiction, there are more residential houses in that area which could also influence school zone designation decisions.

There were additional complaints about the Shady Hills intersection that included blind curve dangers and drivers making hasty or unsafe decisions after lengthy waiting times to cross the road. Custodian Jimmy Bishop says he works the grounds daily and witnesses close calls all the time. He says it’s difficult and dangerous to cross and believes a traffic signal would create a safer environment.

Skrelunas says traffic operations will begin collecting data at the end of this month now that they understand people are having difficulty crossing. They will look at volume, crash reports, and other data to see if a traffic light is warranted. Skelunas says they will also re-evaluate signage in the area as well as the possibility of creating a designated school zone with an enforceable reduced speed.

8 On Your Side will stay on top of this.

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