How to Stop Sarasota Cars from Crashing into Ditches


The safety of roads in Sarasota and beyond that have open drainage systems is being questioned after a narrowly avoided recent tragedy on Canal Road in Palmetto. On the evening of Saturday, May 14, a woman crashed into a drainage ditch after making a turn onto Canal Road from 12th Street East in Palmetto, causing her car to flip over.

Fortunately, she wasn’t injured by the car accident, but the victim might not have been so lucky if the drainage ditch was full after a rainstorm. If her car had slipped just a foot further down the drainage ditch and it was full of water, she could have drowned. This accident has led Leah Watson, the victim’s mother, to rally for protective measures.

“Why aren’t there guardrails?” Watson said to Bay News 9. “At least in some sections where it is an obvious problem.”

Nick Azzara, a spokesperson for Manatee County, told Bay News that the county will be looking into protective measures – mostly likely a guardrail – and if approved during an overall traffic assessment, it could be installed by the end of summer.

However, while guardrails are a great preventive measure for a situation like the one involving Watson’s daughter, there are other safety issues at hand that our local governments should address. These measures will not only help make Canal Road safer, but also numerous other roads in Sarasota and Bradenton with open drainage systems.


Adequate lighting is essential around open drainage systems, especially around ones that are directly adjacent to roads, because it is difficult for a driver to see them in the dark. Without streetlights, it is entirely too easy for a driver to slip into a drainage area when making a wide left turn. This is also a hazard for drivers who may be pulling over to the shoulder of the road to make a call or check directions.

Along with Canal Road, there are other nearby roads, such as the area near the intersections of North East Avenue and 17th Street in Sarasota and busy 9th Street West in Bradenton, that have the dangerous combination of poor lighting and lack of guardrails around open drainage system.

Culvert Safety Grates

Large open culverts are another hazard associated with drainage ditches in the area. Cars can easily get jammed in these culverts, which could lead to drowning if the water is high enough in the culvert – which was nearly the case with the Canal Road victim.

Culverts should have safety grates large enough to allow proper drainage, but not so large that a car’s wheel can get stuck. These safety grates should also be removable, so regular maintenance and cleaning can be performed.

Safer Drainage System Design

Of course, the drainage system ditch in and of itself should be improved to follow better safety guidelines. Drainage ditches should be designed so a vehicle leaving the roadway can cross over them without the vehicle overturning, being abruptly stopped, or causing the driver to lose control, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Sarasota-area drainage systems are often not traversable, and the ditches will likely only get steeper over time, because it is an earth ditch and subject to erosion.

The intersection of South Euclid Avenue and Belvoir Road in Sarasota is an example of an open drainage system that is not traversable, and is likely to get worse overtime, due to natural erosion. Although Leah Watson’s push for guardrails is commendable, it is just one of many safety suggestions that agencies like the Federal Highway Administration advise should be installed on roadways with open drainage ditches. Fully comprehensive safety measures like streetlights and safety grates will make Canal Road and other roads with open drainage systems in the Sarasota area less hazardous for drivers both day and night.

There are many ways motorists can be involved in car accidents in Florida, and our attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have experience helping drivers in the aftermath of a collision. Read more to learn what to do after a car accident and how an attorney can help.