CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Multiple parents in Oakleaf are speaking out after numerous children have been hit by cars at the intersections around the large roundabout that’s located near Oakleaf High School and Plantation Oaks Elementary School.
And Clay County officials are taking action following outcry from parents and inquiries from News4Jax.
News4Jax spoke with two separate parents who each had a child recently hit by a vehicle at the roundabout.
Kimesha Ortega said her son was heading home from Oakleaf High on his bicycle on Tuesday when he was hit.
“Sends me this text message, ‘Mom, I was just hit by a car.’ And I’m about to have a heart attack,” Ortega said. “His bike was just mangled up. I was just really upset and frantic.”
She said he’s doing OK but suffered scrapes.
“You hear about it. But it happens to your child, it’s just an adrenaline rush no parent wants to feel,” Ortega said.
Mark Tumpalan said his son was hit by a vehicle in March.
“He’s doing OK,” Tumpalan said. “It took him a while to get comfortable riding his bike back to school.”
At the time of the accident, Tumpalan said, he was speaking with a deputy and drivers still appeared careless.
“Even though they saw sheriff right there, there were still kids crossing and they almost got hit, as well,” Tumpalan said. “I was beside myself.”
Parents have been outspoken about this issue, even sharing comments in the News 4 Clay County Facebook group.
“It seems they’re not going to make a change in it until somebody ends up losing their life,” said Nicole Camacho, who has been one of the parents spearheading the effort. “Everybody’s concerned.”
She said the county has been responsive to her requests for increased safety, but so far it has not been enough.
“The Clay County commissioners have sent me an email and they’ve painted, they’ve put up signs. The Sheriff’s Office put up a flashing light, roundabout coming,” Camacho said. “But they’re still not stopping, not yielding. They’re on their phones.”
Clay County is now responding with multiple plans for traffic improvements that will be installed in the next few weeks, including rumble strips and a button pedestrians can push when crossing.
The county told News4Jax that both deputies with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County School Board police have been out at the roundabout, reviewing traffic patterns.
Here’s the full statement that Clay County sent to News4Jax on Wednesday:
“The Clay County Board of County Commissioners, County Manager, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and Clay County School Board and Superintendent are all working together toward the main goal of providing for the safety and well-being of our citizens, including the safety of students traveling to and from school on foot or by bicycle.
“The County Manager has been working closely with Sheriff Cook and Superintendent Broskie to address the safety of the Oakleaf Plantation roundabout.
“Several safety enhancements have been made at the roundabout and more are coming.
“From an engineering standpoint, the County has installed additional reflectorized signage and striping to alert drivers they are approaching a crosswalk.
“Rumble strips will be installed at the south and north bound entrances next Thursday, weather permitting, to force drivers to slow down as they approach the intersection.
“Pedestrian beacons that flash brightly when a pedestrian enters the intersection have been ordered and will be installed within 4-6 weeks. The poles and the bases for the beacons will be installed in the next two weeks, and the beacons will be installed as soon as they are received.
“The County is looking into any other possible additional risk mitigation measures that can be taken at this intersection. We urge drivers to slow down and be aware of their surroundings when entering this roundabout or any busy intersection.
“Since being made aware of the concerns, the Clay County Sheriff’s office, in partnership with the School Board Police, have been monitoring this intersection closely and will continue to do so.
“The Sheriff’s office has added this area to a step-up, which means routine monitoring for traffic education and enforcement. Sheriff Cook said deputies and traffic deputies have been made aware of the issues and are in the area as calls for service permit.
“The CCSO has deployed smart speed monitoring devices in the area, which record and document traffic volume and speeds, but as the devices are designed for straightaways, the information gathered appears skewed. CCSO is working with partners to determine other methods to more accurately collect data at this location. The agency did receive a follow up request to move the devices further down the road on the straightaway, which it will be doing soon. Once that data is collected, it will be shared with county leaders who can then determine if design modifications can be made.
“This data will also be provided to the Superintendent to examine and determine any additional needs or requirements at the roundabout, and to consider any transportation requirements for next year.”