A 72-year-old school crossing guard was struck and killed by an impaired driver on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The victim, David Roundtree, was fatally hit by the driver while setting up his school zone cones on the corner of 9th Avenue North and 43rd Street. The death of Mr. Roundtree has inflamed existing community concerns about the uptick in reckless driving and speeding in this school zone.
Mr. Roundtree was a beloved figure in the neighborhood who had been working as a school crossing guard for Mt. Vernon Elementary School for the past three years, helping children walk to and from school safely. One officer believes his death was completely preventable.
“It’s frustrating. It is 100 percent preventable. This shouldn’t have happened. But here we are,” said St. Petersburg Police Department Lt. Edward Borrelli to WTSP.
This sentiment echoes residents’ worries about the number of people unnecessarily speeding and driving distractedly through this elementary school zone on 9th Avenue North, putting kids and the people who protect them at risk.
And these concerns are justified. Drivers routinely go 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit, according to the SPPD, and they have even caught one driver going 103 mph on that same residential road. The infrastructure of this intersection does little to discourage this type of reckless driving, as it currently lacks traffic signals, crosswalks, and only has stop signs for 43rd Street traffic.
So, what can be done to potentially stop the speeding problem in this school zone?
The SPPD has named 9th Avenue North a problem area for speeding and has vowed to step up enforcement after the death of Mr. Roundtree, according to WTSP. Increased enforcement can be a strong deterrent to dangerous driving in school zones, as the fines that come with speeding in these zones can be very hefty.
In our state, the fines are doubled for speeding in a school zone. If you are caught speeding more than 30 mph over the speed limit in a school zone, you will pay a fine of $555, according to the Florida DMV.
Radar Speed Signs
Part of the issue of speeding stems from people not being aware of how fast they are actually going. Radar speed signs are shown to be effective at making motorists realize how high they are going over the speed limit and getting them to slow down.
A radar speed sign is a traffic calming device that detects an approaching car’s speed and displays it on a screen in order to alert the motorist if they are going over the speed limit. A study by the Florida Department of Transportation on unsignalized intersections found that radar speed signs have been shown to significantly impact speeds, especially when coupled with a warning sign, making the intersection safer.
“Through the use of radar speed signs, speed reductions within the intersection area may have a direct impact on intersection safety,” states the FDOT study.
Another effective measure that could be implemented to reduce dangerous speeding in the 9th Avenue North school zone is the installation of speed humps. Speed humps are a raised portion of the road with a gradual slope that encourages drivers to slow down while going over them.
While not a perfect solution for all roads that have speeding issues, they are recommended for residential streets, particularly those with school zones, playgrounds, and other areas where children walk and play, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Speed humps are especially effective in areas where lower speeds of between 20 and 30 mph are desired.
The addition of marked crosswalks on an intersection that otherwise is not clearly designated as a school zone would be a strong visual cue to drivers that they must slow down.
A high-visibility marked crosswalk may include ladder design painting, in-street signs that make motorists aware that they must stop or yield to pedestrians in this school zone crossing, and other pedestrian signals, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center’s Safe Routes campaign.
Crosswalks are made even more effective when combined with “School Zone” pavement markings that warn motorists ahead of time that they are approaching a school zone and need to be cautious.
Until Infrastructure is Improved, Pedestrians Must Be Cautious
Increased awareness of this dangerous intersection may help to bring infrastructural changes needed to make this school zone safe, but until then, students pedestrians who walk to and from school and the parents who accompany them must be cautious of dangerous drivers.
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