28 Killed on Flagler Roads Last Year, Most Since 2008; Total Crashes 2nd-Highest Ever
FlaglerLive | January 8, 2015
Twenty-eight people were killed on Flagler County roads in 2014, the highest number since 31 people died in 2008, and the third-highest number of fatalities in the county’s history, according to figures released by the Florida Highway Patrol. There were a total of 876 crashes in the county last year, the second-highest tally in the county’s history after 2013’s total of 1,063. In 2013, 16 people were killed.
There are no discernible patterns that explain the spike, nor are fire chiefs or law enforcement officials able empirically to discern one or more traceable reasons for the increase, though a Flagler County Sheriff’s report including an analysis of all the year’s crashes will be released later this month.
“We were talking about this the other day,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. “We don’t know what it is. It doesn’t seem there’s more cars on the roads, the speed limit is the same, we’re not sure where it’s coming from, and the ages of the victims are spread throughout, so it’s not like it’s a young problem or an old problem.”
The number of accidents has discernibly increased in the last three years, with the total number of crashes registering above 800 each year. That had happened only twice before in the county’s history, ion 2005 and 2006, when the total number of crashes were 805 and 822, still less than the tallies for each of the last three years. That was at the height of Flagler County’s building and population boom, when roads were busy with construction and droves of drivers new to the area.
Flagler County Traffic Crashes and Fatalities, 1990-2014
In the last three years, however, construction has been minimal and the population has increased only fractionally.
There were no mass wrecks either, at least not in Flagler proper. The year’s most serious series of wrecks took place on May 31 when two people–Michael Benjamin Smith, 17, of Jacksonville, and Pamela Taylor Thor, 56, of St. Augustine—were killed in separate vehicles that collided a mile south of the Palm Coast Parkway intersection on I-95. That wreck caused a back-up that stretched all the way to St. Johns County, where, later, four people were killed as a truck plowed into stopped traffic. Two of the four people were from Palm Coast ( Nilda Valentine Rivera, 41, and Kristin J. Ruiz, 25) but those fatalities are not part of the total of 25 for 2014, because they took place in St. Johns.
In all last year, 19 deaths were the result of vehicle wrecks, six were the result of motorcycle wrecks. One pedestrian was killed by a vehicle (on February 14 on I-95, when Patrick Amaral, 32, laid himself in the center lane of the highway in a suicide), one bicyclist was killed and one pilot, Ray Miller, 77, was killed when his experimental plane plummeted into Pellicer Creek waters. FHP includes all plane and train crash fatalities in its annual tally. The 2013 total of 16 deaths, for example, included the three people killed when their plane crashed into a house on Utica Path in Palm Coast.
The FHP tally does not pick up any geographic pattern, either. Only four of the fatal wrecks took place on I-95. The rest were spread throughout the county, though for the most part took place on highways or parkways—U.S. 1, State Road 11, Belle Terre Parkway, Whiteview Parkway, State Road A1A.
Palm Coast city officials several times during the year boasted that the city’s red-light cameras have made city driving safer by changing drivers’ behavior. The claim is not borne out by the numbers, with traffic crashes increasing significantly since the installation of the red-light cameras, even though the cameras were installed just as the Great Recession struck—and when the population boom ended.
FHP’s traffic homicide investigators began noticing the spike last fall and talking about it at wreck scenes, but without being able to point to any causes other than common factors in wrecks, violent or otherwise: alcohol and either distracted or reckless driving.
The tally does include non-typical if not necessarily unheard of types of fatal crashes: aside from the pilot crashing his experimental plane, there was the death of 30-year-old Ronald Glennlewis Evans of Palm Coast in November, in downtown Bunnell, after he evaded a traffic stop and lost control of his car as he sped up State Street. There was the death in mid-December of 77-year-old Shirley Nethery of Beverly Beach after she mistakenly took a boat ramp for the continuation of a road in a very dark side-road in the Hammock. Dewey B. Thompson, a 49-year-old resident of Bunnell, was killed after he passed out at the wheel of his car, which crashed behind the branch library in Bunnell in June. Similarly, Henry Cornish, 71, had just left a doctor’s office when he lost consciousness as he drove through Town Center and died after his car crashed through brush and woods and caught fire in February.
“I know we’ve had some serious accidents on the internal streets, and I think they’re residents, they’re not people on vacation or visiting, so you can’t say people don’t know the roadways,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle said. He too could not point to a pattern. “I don’t know, complacency maybe? I don’t know if there’s any defined age group, either.” (There isn’t.)
“It could be a great Segway into a campaign on our speeding in interior streets,” Beadle said.
One such campaign may be in the works. Petito is part of a newly formed committee spearheaded by Michael Chiumento, the Palm Coast attorney, that seeks to develop a campaign aimed at texting and driving. It’s still in its earliest stages, Petito said, but the campaign may end up drafting the Community Problem Solvers, the high school student-led initiative that takes on community projects with a public benefit.
“When you go down the road and you look at drivers,” Petito said, “it’s distracted drivers, they’re texting, putting on their make-up, making their coffee, and that has a lot to do with it. Everybody’s got an iPad and an iphone now, I think that has a lot to do with it too.”
“As far as on-going traffic-safety campaigns, the agency continues to participate in statewide seatbelt, speed, and DUI enforcement campaigns throughout the year,” Bob Weber, a spokesman for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, said. “As you know, the agency was recently awarded $100,000 in FDOT grant for training of deputies, public education and traffic enforcement which is focused on reducing the number of DUI related incidents occurring in the county.” FDOT is the Florida Department of Transportation. “The agency also conducts countywide and on a weekly basis, Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs (STEP) in response to citizen complaints dealing with traffic related matter such as stop sign/red light running or speeding.”
Flagler County Fatal Crashes, 2014
|Jan. 17||11:55 p.m.||Belle Terre Parkway||Car-Passenger|
|Jan. 25||9:25 a.m.||Old Kings Road||Car-Driver|
|Jan. 30||1 p.m.||Conservatory Drive||Car-Driver, Non-Traffic Fatality|
|Feb. 8||3:25 p.m.||Whiteview Parkway||Car-Driver|
|Feb. 12||9:38 a.m.||Belle Terre Parkway||Car-Driver|
|Feb. 14||9:45 p.m.||I-95||Pedestrian (suicide)|
|Feb. 20||2:25 p.m.||I-95||Motorcycle|
|Feb. 27||10:50 a.m.||Central Avenue||Car-Driver|
|March 6||6:47 a.m.||U.S. 1||Motorcycle|
|March 16||3:30 a.m.||I-95||Car-Driver|
|March 15||11:04 a.m.||State Road A1A||Motorcycle|
|March 23||10:00 p.m.||County Road 2007||Car-Driver|
|April 29||1:50 a.m.||Palm Coast Parkway||Car-Driver|
|May 10||11:45 p.m.||State Road A1A||Car-Driver|
|May 17||5:46 p.m.||U.S. 1||Car-Driver|
|May 21||12:01 p.m.||N. Oceanshore Blvd.||Car-Driver|
|May 31||2:27 p.m.||I-95||Car-Driver and Car-Passenger|
|June 5||6:30 a.m.||103 East Moody Blvd.||Car-Driver Non-Traffic Fatality|
|July 13||10:11 a.m.||Belle Terre Parkway||Motorcycle|
|July 22||9:02 p.m.||State Road A1A||Bicycle|
|September 14||2:25 a.m.||I-95||Car-Driver|
|October 4||9:34 a.m.||Pelicer Creek||Airplane-Pilot|
|October 15||11:40 a.m.||U.S. 1||Motorcycle|
|October 18||9:40 p.m.||State Road 100||Car-Driver|
|October 20||6:18 p.m.||State Road 100||Car-2Passengers|
|November 4||6:13 a.m.||State Road 11||Motorcycle|
|November 18||12:41 p.m.||U.S. 1||Car-Driver|
|December 16||7:44 p.m.||Pamela Parkway||Car-Driver Non Traffic Fatality|