DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — For the last 5 years, the Mid-Bay Bridge connecting Niceville to Destin reports at least 1 head-on collision every year. Most recently, 5 people were injured in a three-car crash Sunday, Oct. 9.
Niceville resident David Vardaman said safety measures need to be put in place.
“There is no indicator for a driver who may cross the centerline to give them either an audible signal or something that the vehicle will recognize,” said Vardaman. “I would like for a device or some sort of safety mechanism on the road that gives a signal to the driver whether these are rumble strips or flexible cones that will lightly alert the vehicle, but not harm the vehicle, to let them know that they’ve crossed the center line. Currently, there are plenty of reflectors, but if you’re in a large vehicle or if you’re a trailer being pulled or an 18-Wheeler, you’re not going to know that you crossed the center line because your vehicle is just too big and too large.”
In 2021, Vardaman spoke with neighbors and decided to take action.
“My neighbors and I have submitted paperwork through various county and state officials requesting that a safety study be done and the bridge authority concurred,” said Vardaman. “With that, they commissioned a study through the Florida Department of Transportation to recognize if there is a problem and how to mitigate it. That study is being finalized actually as we speak here in October of 2022.”
Okaloosa County Board Chairman and District 5 Commissioner Mel Ponder said the safety of motorists in the County is crucially important to him.
“My heart goes out to those affected by the recent tragic accident. I have had communications with numerous citizens regarding Mid-Bay Bridge safety concerns. While Mid-Bay Bridge Authority is the lead agency in partnership with FDOT, the County has and will continue to support and encourage the consideration of enhanced safety measures for the sake of motorists, both Okaloosa County residents and those traveling to and through our destination,” said Ponder.
Vardaman said one crash a year since 2017 is too much. His heart is close to the issue.
“My neighbor was almost killed, and I had a separate neighbor almost killed because they were directly involved with head-on collisions,” said Vardaman. “My neighbor across the street was nearly hit as she was going to pick up her kids from school at 2:30 on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The only reason her car wasn’t hit is that the car in front of her took the brunt of the force and that driver sustained serious injuries.”
FDOT is the governing agency for the bridge, but the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority oversees the major thoroughfare.
Mid-Bay Executive Director Van Fuller told WKRG News 5 Tuesday that they support any effort FDOT makes in keeping the toll road safe for all that use it, but would not comment further on any increased safety plans.
Vardaman said the study will be finalized in the coming weeks. Okaloosa County Government said no plans have been submitted to them for consideration at this time.
Those that wish to contact the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority can do so from the website. Another option is to attend the monthly meetings. The next board meeting is set for Oct. 20 at Destin City Hall.
Vardaman said he will attend the next few meetings to stay on top of the issue. He said the whole point of doing this is to save lives.
“It’s going to happen again. So what is the county or the state persistence? What are we going to do about it, ’cause doing nothing is not an option at this point,” said Vardaman.
WKRG News 5 reached out to FDOT communications multiple times Tuesday for the preliminary results. We will publish that information when we have it.