This week, the Northwest Florida Daily News took a look at what is going on with the traffic problem in downtown Fort Walton Beach. The article looks at the “stop-and-roll madness” endured by motorists trying to get over the Brooks Bridge on US Highway 98 and on all the feeder roads surrounding the area.
Obviously, any coastal area by definition is at risk for congestion. While landlocked population centers have outlets on all sides, when bodies of water border metro areas, traffic just has fewer directions to go. Add to that gawking tourists unfamiliar with area roads who are trying to get to area beaches, and it can be a recipe for accidents.
According to the piece, which provides information gathered from local officials, several issues contribute particularly to the Fort Walton Beach bottleneck:
- The bridge is an “hourglass,” creating a bottleneck through which cars must funnel, naturally causing slowing and backup, between the mainland and Santa Rosa Island.
- Beal and Eglin Parkways funnel heavy traffic ending at one key roadway: Highway 98. In fact, all downtown roads absorb backed-up traffic.
- The Brooks Bridge bears 52,500 motor vehicles every day. That is a lot of traffic – “over capacity,” according to one Florida Department of Transportation spokesman quoted in the article.
- The use of traffic lights to enter and leave Highway 98, rather than entrance and exit lanes, breaks up the natural flow of traffic.
Of course, motorists have the legal duty at all times to drive reasonably according to the conditions. Stop-and-go traffic requires careful attention away from distraction. It can be tempting to do other things when you are not getting anywhere. Everyone has seen drivers putting on makeup, talking on the phone, relaxing to loud music, eating and drinking and engaging in other distracting behaviors. Floridians in particular must remember that state law makes it illegal to text while driving.
When a negligent or reckless driver causes a crash that injures others or damages other vehicles, that driver is legally responsible. Anyone who is the victim of a negligent or reckless driver should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to understand what legal remedies may be available, such as a lawsuit, and to see that important evidence about the accident is gathered and preserved.