BROOKSVILLE — People who drive Mariner Boulevard are used to long queues at traffic lights and cars spilling out from strip malls.
But be wary. Based on law enforcement data collected last year, Mariner Boulevard is the most dangerous road in Hernando County.
Four of Hernando’s most hazardous intersections are on the road that links State Road 50 to the north and County Line Road to the south.
And given the continued burst of commercial activity, it likely comes as no surprise to people that the Mariner Boulevard and State Road 50 intersection is the current leader in traffic mishaps. There were 96 crashes there from May 26, 2013, to May 26 this year.
The second most dangerous site, with 82 crashes, is the Mariner Boulevard and Spring Hill Drive intersection.
Mariner and Northcliffe Boulevard, and U.S. 19 and Forest Oaks Boulevard, both had 71 crashes.
Rounding out the most dangerous intersections were Mariner Boulevard and County Line Road, and Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19, with 63 crashes.
“You’re talking about busy intersections, congested intersections,” said Sgt. Scott Lamia with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
The crashes represent everything from fender benders to full-on collisions, Lamia said.
In all of 2013, there were 29 traffic-related fatalities.
This year — from Jan. 1 through May 26 — there have been five deaths, which is two less than that same period last year.
Lamia said deputies patrol more frequently those intersections prone to accidents and look out for red-light jumpers.
“We’ll flood areas where we have a lot of crashes and pay particular attention to high-volume crash areas,” he said.
But ultimately it is up to motorists to use common sense while driving.
Lamia said the sheriff’s office has been posting more driving tips and educational articles on its social media site in hopes they will slow people down.
When necessary, Lamia said, sheriff’s officials will meet with county engineers to determine whether the timing of a particular traffic light needs to be adjusted.
Lamia said driving conditions along Mariner Boulevard and other major roads only will worsen as more stores are built.
“It’s a good sign the economy is getting better but we have to make sure people remain safe,” he said.
County Administrator Len Sossamon this week told county commissioners that many of the road improvement projects can be funded through passage of the Penny For Progress sales tax, which voters will decide by referendum at the November general election.
Sossamon said county staffers are developing a list of capital projects that will be strong candidates for the estimated $7.5 million the county would generate from a sales tax hike.
The money will be used for transportation, economic development and airport projects.
Sossamon said it will cost $10 million for improvements at the intersection of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard, which is surrounded on four sides by commercial activity.
County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he is worried that motorists are not heeding law enforcement’s admonitions against texting and using cell phones while driving.
He said he believes that once the widening of State Road 50 – from U.S. 19 to the Suncoast Parkway – is completed, congestion will be eased and there will be fewer crashes.
When the road project is done next year, county engineers will examine the intersection signal cycles to make sure their timing is compatible with the new traffic flow.
“I think the lights are working properly,” he said. “(But) a lot of time, people are just in a hurry.