PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Back in February, a 14-year-old Pasco County girl contacted 8 On Your Side because she was terrified of traffic outside her school. WFLA Traffic Reporter Leslee Lacey grabbed her Speed Buster gun and went clocking.
Leslee saw Makayla’s Trowell’s well-written letter about speeding near her school and she had to check it out. In addition to the speeding problem, there is no “School Zone” sign near the school, there is no traffic light, and there is a blind curve along a busy road.
The stretch of roadway is Shady Hills Road near Soft Wind Lane/Crela Drive, which is directly in front of Crews Lake Middle School. It has a relatively new traffic pattern due to a recent realignment of the intersection.
Leslee had previously discovered at least 13 crashes within one year in or around the intersection.
Pasco County Traffic Operations Manager David Skrelunas told Leslee one of the reasons the school lacked a designated school zone was because it’s entrance was not directly on Shady Hills Road. However, Leslee found there is a designated school zone on nearby Hudson Avenue, yet the school entrance is not along Hudson Avenue.
In front of Crews Lake Middle School, there was a “Suggested Speed” sign of 35 mph on Shady Hills Road. Leslee clocked drivers going up to 64 mph during school hours.
Makayla wanted her school to have a designated school zone with an enforceable speed sign. She also wants to see a traffic light at intersection.
“I would never wanna lose a friend. And just knowing it’s possible every single day it worries me very much,” MaKayla told Leslee.
So, Leslee took Makayla’s concerns to Skrelunas, who promised to look at the issue.
Upon following up, Leslee discovered the Pasco County Traffic Operations Department created a designated school zone. Officials stated they wanted Crews Lake Middle School to match the other nearby schools.
Makayla said she was ecstatic about the changes.
“There’s now a 15 mph flashing “School Zone” with a sign that says fines are double, which is a very big accomplishment and exactly what I wanted,” Makayla said.
The county installed the signs within a few weeks of the story airing on News Channel 8 Today.
Makayla’s father, Tyler Trowell, says the signs have made a big difference in speed reduction. When Leslee returned with her Speed Buster gun, she found a decrease as well.
Makayla added, “When I first wrote the letter it was kind of actually a joke. It was like I’m gonna write to News Channel 8. It was like, ‘Ha ha.’ Then when you responded I was speechless. It makes me feel amazing because I was able to take a stand for something I thought was wrong and was able to correct it and I was able to make everybody more safe around me.”
Makayla said she realized she helped her community, but she also learned something about herself.
“I never really knew how big my voice could be until I used it. And I’m now looking at results that are amazing,” Makayla said.
Makayla and her dad are still hoping to get a traffic light installed at the crash-ridden intersection. So, they have started the process with a petition. Leslee will be following up on their progress.
Six months later, we’re happy to report that Makayla has been honored by her school and by Pasco County for her determination to improve safety near her school. Watch Leslee’s report above to learn more.
If you see a speeding problem in your neighborhood contact WFLA News Channel 8’s Leslee Lacey on Facebook and 8 On Your Side will try and help you slow things down.
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