Residents living near dangerous Leesburg intersection calling for change

1 dozen crashes in five years leave residents concerned

LEESBURG, Fla.Update: Lake County traffic officials said on Feb. 1, 2018, that they continue to evaluate the intersection, as we are awaiting the most recent crash analysis to be released. Also, officials are asking FDOT to conduct a safety study at the intersection if the crash analysis determines a study is recommended. Officials told News 6 the current signage and striping meet all standards, and enhanced warning signs have been placed on all legs of the intersection.

Cars are speeding down a Central Florida county road, and people living nearby say they want it to stop.

In the past five years, there have been a dozen crashes near one particular Leesburg intersection, including one auto-pedestrian crash in which a 61-year-old woman was killed.

The crash report identified the woman as Carolynne Slamka, of Wisconsin, but her family said she had recently moved down to Leesburg. 

Her family is now hoping they can prevent at least one family from going through the same kind of tragedy.

“I recognized it as a dangerous intersection because I actually went down there two times,” Robert Slamka, the victim’s brother, said.

Slamka lives in Wisconsin, but said his sister Carolynne lived near the intersection where she was killed.

The investigative report said she was crossing the street just south of the intersection when a driver speeding down the county road hit her. The report states that the force of the crash caused part of her leg to be severed instantly, and that she died of multiple blunt-force injuries.

The medical examiner’s report ruled her death an accident and said she did have a blood alcohol level of 0.147.

The report also said that the driver of the car was issued a traffic citation, but did not take a blood test, despite being asked by law enforcement.

Court records show the driver pleaded guilty to driving more than 30 mph over the posted speed limit and was ordered to pay a mandatory fine of $1,000.

“The car was going about 72 mph when he entered the intersection in a 40 zone,” Slamka said. “There's no way there was enough lighting for him to be able to see anything of her. So, as he said, it was too dark. He made the police statement that it was too dark.”

News 6 checked, and there is only one streetlight near the intersection of Camp Street and County Road 473.

There are also street signs warning drivers to slow down near the crosswalk and the school. But neighbors living near the intersection said they do nothing to slow people down once the sun goes down.

“There's quite a few wrecks,” Nikki Holland, who lives right by the intersection, said. “And it's pretty busy. People speed up and down the road a lot.”

Holland and her family moved into their home earlier this year, and they agree that something needs to be done. 

“Yeah, my bedroom is on the side right there,” Holland said. “I can hear the tires all night. Sometimes I hear the fire trucks and police cars.” 

Nikki remembers a bad crash that happened in April.

“This guy got hurt pretty bad,” Holland said. “We heard a squeal and my stepmom came out to help them.”

We checked with the Florida Highway Patrol and the Lake County Sheriff's Office and discovered that, in the past year, five crashes have happened at or near the intersection. Four of those had serious injuries, including the fatal one involving Slamka. 

In the past five years, there have been a total of 12 wrecks, nine of which resulted in injuries. 

But the FHP said the crash that killed Slamka is the only reported fatality in the past five years.

“It seems to me one of the largest issues is the State of Florida, to my thinking, doesn't really take pedestrian safety seriously,” Robert Slamka said.

Both the Slamka family and other families who live out there think putting a flashing light out near this intersection would help get results by at least alerting oncoming drivers that there is a crosswalk there, and maybe even getting them to slow down.

“I would think it would make people more cautious,” Holland said.

She said it's scary enough trying to turn on or off the county road onto her street in her car -- let alone on foot.

“I don't even chance it,” Holland said.

Lake County sent the following statement in response to a News 6 inquiry about whether there would be any changes to the intersection anytime soon:

“Lake County has researched records for this entire corridor, as well as studied this particular intersection and determined that it is striped and signed correctly, and has the appropriate warning signs for the crosswalks on all four corners. Unfortunately, the victim in this case was determined to have been crossing south of the crosswalk. 

There have been three crashes at the intersection since the fatality, however the crashes involved drivers on Treadway School Road/Camp Street failing to yield to traffic on County Road 473. There have been no other reported pedestrian or bicycle crashes in the vicinity of the intersection in the past five years. 

We will continue to evaluate this area for street lighting needs and safety improvements. Federal funds will be used for future sidewalks, paved shoulders and restripping with vibratory buttons.”

---Elisha Pappacoda, Public Information Officer, Lake County, Fl

Lake County Engineer Fred Schneider also sent this additional response.

“The corridor was evaluated for safety improvements and FDOT determined that two areas were eligible for Federal Safety Funds.  
These projects include a new sidewalk, and also paved shoulders, and signage and striping upgrades.  The Paved shoulder project is currently under design using Federal funds. The sidewalk project has been advertised for design services. We have also made other improvements on this corridor in the last five years, including turn lanes at Westmont Drive in 2013, and the turn lanes and upgraded cross walks at Treadway School Road in 2011. 

The projects are using Federal Safety Funds and must meet required cost/benefit ratios to qualify.  Tony Nosse at FDOT in DeLand can provide information on the Federal Safety Fund Program.   The area that showed the need for further study was from Treadway School Road north to CR 44 based on crash data and consultation with FDOT.  This study was paid for by FDOT (see attached).  There was no recommendation for street lighting.  

Lake County will also perform a street lighting warrant evaluation to see whether it meets the national criteria for determining the need for street lighting.”