BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — As we roll into the second week of school, parents of West Bay Elementary students are already feeling frustration over the school’s pick-up line.
Justin Teston’s wife and daughter were involved in a car accident leaving the school in April.
He said his wife couldn’t see past the line of cars turning into the main entrance of the school.
“There was a vehicle coming that was just traveling too fast we had stopped but unfortunately not in time and the front end of the car had been clipped,” Teston said.
Teston said a lack of signage and the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit both contribute to the dangerous conditions.
“Even if you do for instance, like in April, stop in time what you think is in time at that intersection, the person that’s in the oncoming lane may not be able to see you or may not have seen you in time and it still results in a bad accident,” Teston said.
The pick up line for West Bay extends pretty far down on State Road 79 northbound. Parents have to pull into oncoming traffic in order to see past the line of cars in the turn lane into the school so they can pull into the median.
The Florida Department of Transportation said they have a few plans in place to make the intersection safer for the school entrance.
“We are going to be installing flashing beacons that will be placed on top of the school entrance signs along that corridor as well as extending the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit,” said FODT Public Information Officer, Ian Satter. “We are going to be reducing a portion of the 55 miles-per-hour about 200 yards to the south.”
Satter said FDOT is always willing to work with the school district to improve traffic conditions but adds FDOT hasn’t heard from Bay District Schools on the matter.
However, Communications Director for BDS, Sharon Michalik, said otherwise.
In a statement Michalik said:
“Student safety, and the safety of drivers dropping them off and picking them up, is our number one concern at all of our campuses. We do our very best to design traffic patterns on campus that support the safe travel of all of our stakeholders but, unfortunately, sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control that require intervention from other agencies. We have been in contact with the Department of Transportation since 2015, and the construction company making road improvements in the area, regarding improvements we would like to see at this particular intersection adjacent to West Bay Elementary School but we understand that process can be complicated and takes time. Additionally, we know from our research that other agencies like the Bay County Traffic Engineering Department and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office play a significant role in establishing safety interventions near our schools and we’re grateful for any help they can provide. In the meantime, we ask all drivers to be hyper-vigilant in all school zones and to obey all traffic laws, including speed limits, while school is in session and particularly during school opening and closing times. We want all of our students, and staff members, to be able to travel safely to and from school each day and we appreciate the community’s help when it comes to making that goal become a reality.”
Teston said he feels there needs to be a stronger Bay County Sheriff’s Office presence near the school during pick up as well.
BCSO responded in a statement and said:
“The Bay County Sheriff’s Office responds to Hwy 79 and School Drive, which is the access road to West Bay Elementary, each weekday morning before school starts and at dismissal time in the afternoon when the volume of calls for service permits.
The deputy parks in the median on Hwy 79 with emergency lights on to bring attention to traffic and speed signs and to assist parents leaving School Drive to get back onto Hwy. 79. The deputy also is there is enforce any traffic law violations as laid out by the signage. Signs are placed by the Florida Department of Transportation.”
FDOT said that portion of SR 79 no longer qualifies as a school zone. The agency said design standards changed while the school was closed from 2009 to 2015.