I have owned property and now lived full time in The Villages for almost nine years. Since our home backs up to Rio Grande Avenue, we have seen it all – speeding, reckless driving, driving using a cell phone, pedestrians on the wrong side, golf carts hitting curbs, you name it we’ve seen it.
I took it upon myself to contact the Town of Lady Lake during the prior administration. The Town Manager and Police Chief kindly came to my house and heard my pleas for more traffic control but nothing ever happened. We actually went out twice to observe traffic at the EL Cortez Gate and the intersections of Rio Grande Avenue and Chula Vista Avenue because crossing and turning at both sites is very risky. Nope, nothing we can do! I asked, “but we have stop signs at Del Mar and Avenida Central and that has eliminated problems.” No, can’t do it too many rules. State will not allow it without extensive costly studies and regulatory requirements.
The lack of enforcement, I was told, is due to the small amount of money allocated to the enforcing jurisdiction from each ticket. This is compounded when an officer must go to court due to a challenge to the ticket which actually then costs the Town of Lady Lake money due to the officer’s unavailability to patrol.
So, I met with Rep. Hage and Sen. Baxley. Neither offered any help when I suggested that the rules for traffic control devices inside a 55 and over community might need to be relaxed. Allow the local elected officials to install traffic signs, stop signs etc. for “safety only” based on their local knowledge – it fell on deaf ears. One even said no, because it might cause unintended consequences! Well right now our quality of life is an unintended consequence of no enforcement.
A friend and I went so far as to contact Sheriff Grinnell’s staff. They were very attentive and listened to our comments about the problems. For a few days we saw Lake County motorcycle patrols on Rio Grande Avenue but then it ended and they have not returned since.
When we got a new town manager in Lady Lake, I hoped that things would change since he is in charge of the police and is a prior police officer. Maybe he would at least take a look at the traffic statistics for three-fifths’s of the town that is located within The Villages. It was clear to me, in the past, that few, if any, citations are ever issued in The Villages portion of Lady Lake even though we represent three of the five wards of the town.
Back to the title of this commentary, how to fix the problem since so few citations are given? The solution already exists – treat all 55 and over communities containing public roads, in Florida, just like construction zones and DOUBLE THE FINES! Also, mandate that the double portion of the fine goes directly to the enforcing jurisdiction ie. Lady Lake Police, Wildwood Police, Lake and Sumter County Sheriff’s offices. The cost of processing the ticket is already paid in the first portion of the ticket thus allowing the double portion to go to the local enforcing jurisdiction.
Now I know this is not an easy sell! Many of our own residents could be affected, if ticketed, but can you think of a more common-sense approach to regain control of our streets, I cannot.
Construction zones are dangerous to the people working there because drivers do not slow down, drivers are distracted by cell phones or radios, they ignore traffic signs to stop or go, they simply are not paying attention or they are careless. And, although we live in a designated quiet zone, the blasting radios on Rio Grande Avenue and Chula Vista Avenue are outrageous not to mention the extremely loud mufflers. I would bet not one noise citation has ever been issued!
In the older areas of The Villages, the roads were not designed for the heavy traffic they get like Rio Grande Avenue, Chula Vista Avenue, Morse Boulevard and Avenida Central, where two young men died recently. South of County Road 466 is better because the roads got wider, there are multimodal paths and Sumter County Sheriff enforces traffic violations much more diligently.
What can you do? Speak up, contact Rep. Hage’s office at (352) 315-4445 or Sen. Baxley’s office at (352) 750-3133. Tell them that you want them to introduce or support a bill to make all traffic violations, on public roads, within any 55 and older state approved community, to be doubled just like construction zones! We know that doubling the traffic fines has a positive effect in construction zones why not adopt those rules for 55 and over communities facing the risks we face every day on our streets in The Villages. Don’t forget, just like construction zones, we face many obstacles. We have pedestrians, motorized wheel chairs, Segways, golf carts and bicycles on these roads combined with many senior drivers who’s reflexes may not be as good as they once were.
The concept of 55 and over communities was created and justified many years ago. The law allows for limited age, no children and other criteria. Adopting an existing common-sense law to protect the residents makes so much sense since we know it works in construction zones.
If you live in The Villages portion of the Town of Lady Lake and/or you agree with this suggestion, call the Town Manager’s office at (352) 751-1501 and Lake County Sheriff Grinnell at (352) 343-2101 to let them know we need more enforcement – now!
We have roads that are not designed for the amount of traffic we experience. Seasonal increases beyond what was ever anticipated. I understand that some of these roads were actually gated at one time with limited access. At the El Cortez Gate we take our lives in our hands every time we enter or exit since traffic on Avenida Central does not stop. And many pass-through drivers ignore the rules, speeding and reckless driving, using The Villages roads to avoid heavy traffic on outside roads that are being neglected – like Rolling Acres Road which needs to be widened.
Only the voice of the people, speaking common sense will have any effect. I tried many times to address these issues patiently, but if you agree that our streets are very dangerous please speak up now! Your voice counts.
Let’s tell our elected officials we have had enough excuses – do something – anything!
My Two Cents!
Village of El Cortez