DAVENPORT – The mother and father of a young woman who was killed in a truck accident on U.S. 27 earlier this year were among the more than 30 Polk County residents, law enforcement officials, state highway planners and county leaders who met to form a task force that will focus on making US 27 safer.
“I would gladly give everything I have not to be here,” Russell Hurd told the group Tuesday night at Polk Outpost 27, a visitors’ center just south of Interstate 4 on US 27, the road some locals refer to as “Bloody 27.”
26 year old Heather Hurd lost her life when an inattentive (or sleeping) tractor-trailer driver rear ended several cars and another truck that were stopped at a red light at U.S. 27 and Sand Mine Road.
Two people were killed and several others were injured in the accident.
“I don’t want any family to feel what my wife and I feel,” Hurd said. “I want them to fix what’s wrong with those 15 miles of the highway.”
Hurd was referring to the heavily traveled section of US 27 between Haines City and the Polk/Lake county line to the north.
The meeting was hosted by the Polk Transportation Planning Organization and the Florida Department of Transportation and was intended to be the organizational meeting for a task force of residents and officials created to identify immediate or short-term solutions to the highway’s problems.
While long-range plans are already on the table, they are not expected to be in place for several years.
Marcia Dennis, a local resident said “That’s too long to wait for action.” She prepared a list of possible short-term solutions she would like to see implemented to help reduce the number of traffic accidents on the roadway. Some of her proposed changes include lowering speed limits, increasing the number of police, installing traffic signals at intersections that lead to neighborhoods such as her own, installing flashing lights to warn of stop lights and “rumble strips” – a series of bumps across the traffic lane that lets drivers know to be aware of a stop sign or stoplight ahead.
Dennis, who lives in a neighborhood very near the intersection of U.S. 27 and I-4, has been trying for four years to get the Transportation Department and other state agencies to do something about these problems. While she has had little success, she is encouraged by the formation of the task force.
Heather Hurd had moved to Central Florida from her family home in Maryland to work at Disney World, something she had always wanted to do.
“Everyone, I want you to think about your own Heather,” Russel Hurd said. “Our loved ones are dying (on U.S. 27) now. Short-term solutions are needed now.”
The problem here is two fold. First, there are too many large commercial trucks traveling through Polk County on what amounts to country roads and second, truck drivers are regularly pressured by their employers to drive longer hours than Federal Regulations permit. The result – truck drivers who are half asleep or at the very least fatigued and inattentive are driving 80,000 pound tractor trailers through small towns. It is a recipe for disaster. Fatigue is just one of the common causes of truck accidents.
Victims of truck accidents are often killed. Of those who survive the crash, many suffer catastrophic, life altering injuries including:traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, tetraplegia, paralysis, coma, burn injury , head injury and orthopedic injury.
The Florida injury lawyers at our firm have successfully represented victims of truck accidents in Polk County, Florida and are familiar with local issues that arise in these cases as well as state and federal trucking laws. If you or someone you know has been killed or injured in a truck accident in Polk County or anywhere in Florida, contact a Florida truck accident lawyer today.
See my earlier post, Bartow Florida Semi Truck Accident Closes SR 60 for more on Polk County truck accidents.