Residents call for change after man killed chasing after dog

Neighborhoods can apply with city for 'traffic calming'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in a Westside neighborhood are pushing for change after a man was killed this week while chasing after his dog.

Joseph Willbanks (pictured below), 34, was trying to catch his dog after its leash snapped when he was hit by a car on Nussbaum Road Tuesday night.

Police are still investigating the crash, but witnesses said the driver was racing another car on the residential street. Police have not yet confirmed that claim.

"If you get to a place five minutes sooner, then you're going to get your place, or if you're drag racing just for the fun of it, it's not worth losing someone's life over," said Jennifer Bell, Willbanks' girlfriend. "Just be careful, slow down and think about your surroundings, not just yourself."

Joseph Willbanks
Joseph Willbanks

Channel 4's Vic Micolucci took a radar gun out to the neighborhood to investigate the residents' claims of rampant speeding. They said racing has become common in the area, and they want it to stop.

"There's always somebody speeding," neighbor Laura Burnett said. "There's always somebody that has to be somewhere 10 times faster."

The posted speed limit on Nussbaum Road and most of the surrounding streets is 30 mph.

With the radar gun, Micolucci found many drivers speeding in the neighborhood, including one driver going 47 mph in 30 mph zone.

Neighbors said they routinely see drivers going as fast as 60 or 70 mph. They said they want speed bumps put in place and a police crackdown.

"It's pretty bad," neighbor Billy Ellison said. "I mean people go flying constantly."

Ellison said he's called the city and petitioned for speed bumps but has gotten nowhere.

"They can report traffic complaints to their local substation, call the (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) non-emergency number, or go to their local ShAdCo meeting and discuss their concerns with the individuals who work that area," JSO spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda said.

Bujeda said that JSO didn't have any records of dangerous driving complaints on Nussbaum Road in the past year.

According to the city of Jacksonville's website, COJ.net, residents can also apply through the city for a "traffic calming" study. The study could result in the implementation of "traffic calming" techniques, including roundabouts, speed humps, a radar speed monitoring trailer or periodic monitoring of speeding and other violations by police.

But before any changes are made, residents must participate in a workshop with the neighborhood's councilperson and city staff to settle on a plan for what "traffic calming" techniques will be used.

After the techniques are chosen, a resident or neighborhood association must circulate a petition and collect signatures from at least 75 percent of the households or businesses in the area.

Once the plan is approved by the community and 50 percent of the fees are paid, the city will initiate the design and implementation of the "traffic calming" techniques.

For more information on these procedures, go to http://bit.ly/1lvNekm and download the City of Jacksonville's Traffic Calming Manual. Or you can call (904) 630-2489.