Broward News

Wilton Drive Is a Death Trap

It's been a week since Greg Futchi was killed crossing a dangerous five-lane stretch of Wilton Drive, and those close to him are still looking for answers. Friends, family members, and supporters turned out at a rally last week to bring attention to the escalating hazard that is the Island City's main road. Rally members cried out for change in the area. Futchi was just the latest to have his life taken on the death trap that is Wilton Drive.  

According to a news release put out by a group calling for changes to the street:
An independent study conducted in 2010 found that several deaths as well as over twenty pedestrian accidents involving a motor vehicle had been caused due to Wilton Drive’s lack of proper crosswalks, median, poor lighting, and its use as a highway. For years, locals have been outspoken about the need to make changes but site that city officials have let the issue drag on without resolution in sight while deaths and injuries persist.
Futchi had just left the popular Tropics Piano Bar when he was struck by a 2012 Nissan Versa traveling southbound. He would later succumb to his injuries at Broward Health Medical Center. Residents are now pointing to an issue that they say has been no secret for a long time: the lack of proper crosswalks, any median whatsoever, little to no lighting, and the area's use as a highway. These issues combined have made the street too dangerous to exist in its current state any longer. 

Doug Blevins, a former candidate for mayor in Wilton Manors, agrees with the residents' concerns. Blevins is working with the group to get the state's attention and fix this stretch of busy road immediately. 

"When you have a wide highway like Wilton Drive — and people are talking on their phones or listening to their radios — they don't necessarily slow down. People leaving these bars at times are impaired, making it harder to judge the speed or distance of a vehicle," Blevins told New Times.

"There need to be more signalized crosswalks — both at intersections and within these wide blocks."

In June, the Sun Sentinel reported that the state had shot down ideas the city had proposed, such as painting rainbow-colored crosswalks and painting the speed limit on the street. The city did, however, crack down on jaywalkers. According the Sentinel article, 80 percent of local pedestrian accidents happen in five street corridors — Wilton Drive among them. 

The problem is so bad that the city's website gives people a five-step lesson in how to cross a danged street ("1. Stop at the curb or edge of the street. If vehicles parked on the street block your view of traffic, move forward to the edge of the line of parked vehicles where you can observe traffic in both directions....." )  and the police department has developed signage making the street sound like one of America's Most Wanted:

What most concerns Blevins group is the ridiculousness of how the area is set up, especially in relation to the clientele that frequents most of the establishments in the area. 

"They built a parking lot — where most of these patrons, which are older gentlemen, park — across the street from these bars, without any crosswalk whatsoever. This is where two people have been killed, and six or eight more have been hit, right in front of Tropics. I think that citizens are at the point where they are discussing a potential class-action lawsuit — something has to change."

Citizens can come help voice concerns over the dangers of Wilton Drive at the next commission meeting tonight at 7 at City Hall. Attendees are encouraged to come to the precommission rally will take place at 6 p.m. at the same location to gather before the meeting takes place. Blevins asks that citizens attend to show solidarity and demand a change. 

"I ask that people get up and speak and try to touch the hearts of state and city elected officials. We need to stop hearing, 'We can't, we can't, we can't!' There comes a point in your life when you have to say, 'We can't do something, and we will find a way to do it,'" Blevins says. 

He says his group will stop at nothing to end the tragedies that are occurring far too frequently on this stretch of road. 

"If it means we have to go up to Tallahassee and march and get up in front of the state, a lot of us are willing to do that. It's got to change." 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi