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Sheriff says county needs help on traffic

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20 deaths this year surpass last year's total

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Twenty people have died in traffic accidents in Levy County and there's still two months left to go in 2013. That number of fatalities surpasses all of 2012.

Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum told the Levy County Legislative Delegation hearing on Tuesday that he has stepped up traffic enforcement and he had a request: More Florida Highway Patrol troopers need to be stationed in the county,  State Sen. Charlie Dean Jr. of Inverness (R-District 5) and state Rep. Charlie Stone of Ocala (R-District 3) held the hearing to receive requests from local officials.

McCallum was speaking after a particularly gruesome month:

• A 7-year-old girl died just hours after the SUV she was riding in on U.S. Highway 27A had a right rear tire blow out causing the vehicle to overturn at 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27. Five others were injured in the wreck. She is the 20th traffic fatality.

• A Williston man died Friday, Oct. 25, in a one-vehicle crash on State Road 121. His was the 19th traffic fatality. Two others were injured.

• A Williston man died Friday Oct. 18, while walking in the northbound lane of Northeast 105th Avenue at Northeast 86th Street. He was the 18th traffic fatality.

The grim reaper knew no bounds as Levy residents died in crashes outside the county as well:

• A 31-year-old Chiefland father died in a three-car wreck on County Road 349 in Dixie County. The 5-month-old infant riding in the rear passenger seat survived. 

• A Williston resident died on Saturday, Oct. 27, after crashing into two other vehicles while driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 19 south of the county line in Citrus County. One other person was injured.

• A Williston man died Sunday, Oct, 27, in a one-vehicle accident on Country Road 326 in Marion County. 

McCallum said the county, in the past, had more county and state maintained roads than any other county in the state. This year, he said, the county leads for traffic fatalities in FHP Troop B which covers from the Gulf Coast to Baker County. 

“Traffic fatalities have become critical,” he said. “We have surpassed our rate for last year. FHP troopers are hard to come by in Levy County.”

McCallum, himself a former FHP trooper, said only one trooper lives in the county. “We have to help our citizens who wait an hour or two to wait on a trooper. We have increased our reaction time to accidents.

He had bad news for bad drivers and himself.

“We gone back to more traffic enforcement, which is not popular for sheriffs.”

He asked the legislators to encourage the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees the FHP to put more resources in Levy. “That's critical I think,” McCallum said. “If you could encourage those folks that have responsibility for that.”

The sheriff's plea did not fall on deaf ears as Dean, a former sheriff, assured him he had a valid request.

“Seems the more you work traffic, the more it looks like it follows you,” Dean said. He said it is upsetting when the Legislature has appropriated money for items ? like having five FHP troopers based in each county ? and it does not go there. 

“It's our responsibility and I take that very seriously,” Dean said. “We will be asking and insisting on the appropriateness in troopers. One or two more won't make a difference (in enforcement in) Dade County where you've got a million people.”