What should be the reaction of government when motorists are being hurt and killed with some regularity on a particular stretch of road?
Should it be to search for reasons that the deaths and injuries are not statistically significant? Or should it be to search out every potential opportunity to minimize accidents in the future?
Of course, it should be the second of those two, and it is, for the moment at least, the option that county officials have chosen in the aftermath of fatal accidents on Tampa Road in Palm Harbor.
Tampa Road is heavily traveled east of U.S. 19 as motorists use it to get to Oldsmar or to jog over to East Lake Road and head north. Traffic volumes are increasing as Oldsmar and the Trinity area of Pasco County continue to explode with residential development, and many of the motorists traveling Tampa Road are commuters hurrying between home and work.
Speed kills, and authorities believe that is one of the issues behind a recent rash of wrecks on Tampa Road between Lake St. George Drive and McMullen-Booth/East Lake Road. But one need only look at a road map to see that the configuration of the road is another likely factor. Tampa Road takes a big bend to the south around Lake St. George, making visibility limited when driving the curve. Speeding traffic, especially eastbound, is quickly upon streets that intersect with Tampa Road and serve apartment and condominium developments on both sides of Tampa Road. Motorists trying to pull out of those streets into six-lane Tampa Road are at risk of being hit by cars traveling too fast.
Between Feb. 27 and March 13, three people were killed in horrific accidents on that stretch of Tampa Road.
One of them, Tony Iuele, was a pedestrian, out for his nightly walk near his condo on Strathmore Gate Drive on March 13. He stepped into Tampa Road and was hit by four cars in succession. Only the second driver stopped. In another accident on Feb. 27, two young men were killed when their car spun out of control on Tampa Road and they were ejected from the car.
Those are the most recent accidents, but there have been plenty of others. The same stretch was where Russell and Holly Seedner, parents of a 10-year-old, were killed in a head-on crash in 1994.
Residents of the complexes along Tampa Road have banded together in the wake of the most recent deaths, keeping statistics on the wrecks they have witnessed and calling county officials to ask for stoplights, blinking caution lights, more speed checks by law enforcement or, if nothing else, more signs to warn motorists of the short sight distance on the curve.
County staffers and the Metropolitan Planning Organization are reviewing accident statistics, traffic counts, lighting conditions along the road and other factors that could be addressed.
While those long-term solutions are under study, law enforcement officials can help make the road safer by ticketing irresponsible drivers who speed on that section of Tampa Road.