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Traffic crashes at Racetrack and Skipper intersection in Fort Walton Beach continue to increase

The data shows 56 crashes at the intersection from 2020 through July 2023.

The intersection of Racetrack Road and Skipper Avenue in Fort Walton Beach has gotten a lot of attention over the last couple of months. 

  • An analysis of traffic crash data at the intersection shows the area has become increasingly accident-prone in recent years.

The data, provided by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, shows 56 crashes at the intersection from 2020 through July 2023. In total, 114 vehicles along with 126 people were involved in these accidents that amounted to $518,000 in damages (not to mention the recent Taco Town sign.) 

  • 2020: 8 crashes
  • 2021: 12 crashes
  • 2022: 23 crashes
  • 2023: 12 crashes (data through July)
OCWFD

Here’s a look at some key insights:

  • 51 crashes occurred during daylight hours, while 5 happened either at dusk or at night.
  • Most crashes (50) took place on dry roads.
  • 39 crashes were related to the intersection.
  • 20 involved distracted driving.
  • 4 were hit-and-run.
  • None were cited for aggressive driving, speeding, alcohol or drug related.
  • 50 crashes involved passenger vehicles, while 4 involved commercial vehicles and 2 involved motorcycles.
  • 27 involved a driver 65 or older.
  • 11 involved a driver between 15-19 years old.

Racetrack Road is a State Road (SR 188) and can only be addressed by the State of Florida through the FDOT. The county cannot redesign or change a State of Florida intersection, according to Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, whose district this intersection falls within. 

  • “As your commissioner this is extremely concerning,” said Commissioner Ketchel. “We have numerous thoughts on why this may be an issue, however we are waiting for FDOT to report their findings.”

Back in May, Deputy Brian Muhlbach with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office dedicated several hours a day over a period of a couple weeks monitoring the intersection and conducted traffic stops of red light runners.

“I asked the drivers for an honest explanation of why they failed to stop at the red light,” he told Get The Coast. “The vast majority told me they simply didn’t see it. I also met with the Ocean City-Wright Fire Department to hear their thoughts, as they are usually the first responders to these crashes. Collectively, we agreed the main issue appears to be visibility of the traffic light itself.”

Muhlbach says 3 possible issues were identified as reasons that may have contributed to the traffic crashes at the intersection:  

  • There is a flashing yellow emergency signal on Racetrack Road at the entrance of Ocean-City Wright Fire Department, approximately 560 feet west of the intersection of Skipper Ave. When approaching the intersection from both directions, the emergency signal appears significantly brighter than the traffic signal at Skipper Avenue. This may cause motorists to focus on the emergency signal and fail to notice the traffic signal.  
  • As vehicles make right turns on a red light, as permitted by law onto Skipper Ave from eastbound Racetrack Rd, an assumption is made by motorists that the light has turned to green and they proceed into the intersection when in fact the light is still red. 
  • It has been noted that there are obstructions giving limited visibility of oncoming eastbound and westbound traffic on Racetrack Road. Motorists are unable to take evasive action should a vehicle run the red light traveling east or west. 
Source: Facebook

According to the report, Deputy Muhlbach met with the Florida Department of Transportation and with the Ocean-City Wright Fire Department on two separate occasions at the intersection.

Collectively, they identified five possible solutions:

  1. Install traffic signal reflective backplates to improve visibility at the traffic lights, especially during daytime hours.
  2. Install “No Right Turn on Red” signage along the eastbound lanes.
  3. Install “Traffic Signal Ahead” signage east and west of the intersection.
  4. Trim or remove shrubbery causing visual obstructions in the northwest, northeast, and south west corners of the intersection. 
  5. Install traffic signal pole lights east and west of the intersection as an extension of the existing traffic signal arms. 

Muhlbach says his report was forwarded to FDOT to review, and is now in their hands to make improvements as they see fit.

Source: Facebook

As for the flashing emergency signal by the Ocean-City Wright Fire Department, Florida Law states that emergency arms must blink a continuous yellow until an emergency vehicle enters the roadway and then it must turn to red. 

“As your Commissioner, I have advocated for swiftly addressing this intersection because it has become one of the most dangerous in Okaloosa County,” added Ketchel. “Until the Florida Department of Transportation addresses some of these much-needed changes, I ask you to proceed on Racetrack Road with extreme caution, especially when approaching this intersection from any direction.”

Watch: Accident from Oct 9, 2023

12 Responses

  1. FDOT SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS INTERSECTION IMMEDIATELY. ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. HAVE ANY DEATHS OCCURED HERE?

  2. How difficult would it be to put bigger lights and no turn on red signs???
    I guess people have to die before the state makes changes.
    Accidents, such as these, have caused my insurance company to say that Fort Walton is a dangerous place to drive and increased my insurance rate. Our city averages 5 accidents per day!!
    I’ve never had an accident! For the most part, I avoid Eglin and Racetrack during heavy traffic or drive the side roads.
    Lower all the speed limits, ticket speeders, and raise the fines for those who cause accidents!

  3. The westbound light post is significantly higher than any other posts; lower it so it’s in better eye level! Also, put a run-a-red ticket camera on it too. County/City will benefit & I bet once the word gets put, people will finally take notice.

  4. I drive through this intersection at least four times a day. When turning from Skipper going left on Racetrack, we have almost been hit by oncoming traffic several times with drivers running red lights and its always during the day. In addition a right turn on red should not be allowed as the line is set so far back from the corner. That light does sneak up on you and the lights for the fire department can be distracting if this isn’t a road that you frequently travel. The city really does need to fix this issue.

  5. Fun fact, this intersection didn’t used to have a light (late 90s I think it was added), accidents were few and far between.

    Fun fact #2, the blinking yellow light used to sit even closer to the intersection of Mooney Rd and Racetrack and this problem didn’t exist there.

    I have lived down the street from taco town since the mid 90s and it wasn’t until drivers have become more distracted that this has been a problem.

    I agree with the view of the drivers turning onto racetrack being obstructed completely. I made the mistake of trying to make the light from skipper onto racetrack around 0700 one weekend morning many years ago (pre fire station move/blinking yellow light) only to be met with a car flying through from the west behind me, light had been red for them for a while as it was barely green for me turning onto racetrack. Due to the lack of view because the geometry of the intersection and signs/brush you don’t know what is coming until you are almost into racetrack. I have since never viewed this intersection as a safe crossing and roll through it like there’s a speed bump whether I am first, 4th or last. It irritates drivers behind me but they are probably the same ones that have been t-boned here.

    Turning right off racetrack onto skipper on red is not the cause, the cars that cause these wrecks are going full speed as though there is no light or intersection. They would have plowed through the car turning right as it has at least 10 yards to get from the light stop line to skipper.

    A full blown traffic study needs to be undertaken, until then nothing will change. Minor improvements have been made and no change in accident rate has occurred. There are some really smart traffic engineers out there, until this intersection gets that level of attention I will continue with extreme caution.

    1. Fun fact. We never had the problem with the yellow light off racetrack and Mooney. Fun fact All the trees on the Animal Hospital side needs to be trimmed back as far as possible so everyone can see better. Last fun fact. Get off your cellphone.

    2. paragraph #3 – this is it! Watching the video, it doesn’t look like the work truck even saw there was a stopped car. Whether you’re at a stop light or not, if the car in front of you is stopped, you stop or go around.

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