Death in Vilano Beach avoidable had the county followed through on requested crosswalk – Residents in area upset

An accident involving a van full of teens, which resulted in the death of a 65 year old man, and the individual he was with being transported with injuries, should have never happened according to locals in the area.

“People go flying down A1A there. It’s about time for a real crosswalk there. At least a sign and some paint. We can do better,” says Jay Graham in a comment on our live video from the scene of the accident.

Jennifer Lovelace has been contacting officials since mid 2019, warning this very scenario was imminent if something wasn’t done.

An email from Lovelace in 2021 reads, “A few years ago I requested a speed study to be done for coastal highway. This was completed and reported back there were no problems with speed on sections of coastal highway. Im writing again after witnessing another near deadly accident again on 3rd street and coastal highway… People are driving too fast, way over the speed limit. I don’t know another area that has so many pedestrians with a speed limit of 50mph. The speed limit on this stretch should be 35mph or we need significant crosswalks/lights put in to allow people to safely cross the road…”

The response she received, 8 days later was as follows,

Ms. Lovelace,

I want to thank you for bringing your concerns to the Department’s attention.  The Department establishes speed limits in accordance with Florida Statute 316.187 and the Department’s “Speed Zoning for Highways, Roads and Streets in Florida” manual.  The primary intent of the manual is to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety by reducing the probability and severity of crashes through the establishment of speed limits based on engineering and traffic studies. An unrealistically low speed limit can actually lead to crashes. First, many studies conducted over several decades in all parts of the country have shown that a driver’s speed is influenced more by the appearance of the roadway and the prevailing traffic conditions than it is by the posted speed limit. Second, a small number of drivers will obey the lower posted speed limit while others will feel it’s unreasonable and simply ignore it. This disrupts the uniform traffic flow and increases crash potential between the faster and the slower vehicles. Third, drivers on side streets/driveways and pedestrians crossing the road also have greater difficulty in judging the speed of approaching vehicles.

As you noted in your email, vehicles often travel well above the existing posted speed limit.  A further reduction in the speed limit will not have the desired effect of reducing vehicle speeds.  The speed limit in this area was last reviewed in 2019.  At that time, the data did not support lowering the speed limit in any of the segments of the corridor. With no significant change in the surrounding land uses and the amount of roadside development, another study at this time would not produce different results. Law enforcement may be contacted to increase enforcement of the current speed limit.

Regarding the installation of new crosswalks, there are three new crosswalks that are proposed or in the process of design, at the intersections of Nease Beachfront Park, Mussallem Park, and Euclid Ave (proposed by St. Johns County via permit).  

 I appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention.  If you have any questions concerning this matter, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,

ABIMAEL COLLAZO-VARGAS, P.E.

Traffic Services Engineer II

D2 – Traffic Operations

904-360-5631

As recently as March 22 of this year, Lovelace again wrote to DOT about her concerns, when a young child was airlifted to the hospital after an accident in the area.

Abimael, 

Good morning. Another accident happened on A1A this weekend which resulted in a young child being airlifted to the hospital. I have written before and spoke with the county about this dangerous road and in particular this intersection. My concern has been recorded now through emails for years. Third street and A1A is an extremely busy intersection. Caps on the water makes this particular road very busy. On to of that you have Castle Ottis that people like to stop and take photos of. You also have the fact that 3rd street is the main beach access for Ponte Vedra shores west, Marshview, and first street -fifth street. The fifth street access also has one of the neighbors illegally plant a bunch of palms on the beach access point to decrease the size of its access in which the county did nothing. The DOT needs to trim back all of the palmettos along A1A from Sandcastle lane to 5th street on the east and west side of the road. The DOT also needs to highly consider putting some sort of flashing lights or warning for people to cross this intersection. The same goes for the North Beach campground area. When we spoke 2 years ago you mentioned that the campground was getting a crosswalk, which has never been implemented. Please provide me some information in which the DOT is doing to make A1A along this stretch safer. Please see attached photos of the accident this past weekend.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Lovelace” 

Lovelace also provided 904 Now with a document that indicates the county had planned on installing a $300,000 “High-intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK)” system on Euclid Ave, the exact location of Saturday’s fatal accident. The HAWK system would have included beacons to “Stop traffic on SR A1A in order for padestrians to cross the street.” These documents indicate the HAWK crosswalks were scheduled to be completed in October of 2021, which may have completely prevented this tragedy.

The reason this project was not completed is not clear at this time.

3 thoughts on “Death in Vilano Beach avoidable had the county followed through on requested crosswalk – Residents in area upset

  1. “Speed limit signs don’t work because people ignore them” is a rediculous statement. May as well remove seatbelts from vehicles because some people ignore them.

  2. thanks Jennifer for documenting all your attempts to make our neighborhood safer – it is tragic that pedestrians continue to be injured and now killed due to inaction by our county officials.

  3. St Augustine has the most discusting City and County officials we have seen in our entire life. They care about NOTHING of any improvements in their city. But yet, want all their residents to be sure to pay their taxes and they continue to sell as many Permits and Licenses they can muster as fast as their hands can move. No attention to poor Contractors nor the shoddy builders coming here to do the less than quality work with inferior materials that we see, what we witness and hear about from buyers of these new homes. Those round da bouts have done Nothing in this city to improve any infrastructure and do not make travel any better nor easier. I don’t get out here but 1 day per week now until house closes…since I don’t want to be a statistic in one of St Augustine’s messy accidents. Thus, I am now paying taxes to another Florida County as I write here…as of October 2021. No more to St Johns County.

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