Northeast Florida has its first “Express Lanes” that opened recently on Interstate 295 (I-295) West Beltway in Jacksonville. Travelers will encounter the new restricted lanes on part of the south side of town near Orange Park.
General purpose lanes with no tolls will remain while tolls for the two Express Lanes in each direction will fluctuate depending on traffic volume. The tolls are designed to help balance traffic while allowing travelers a more predictable travel speed, at a minimum of 45 m.p.h.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Express Lanes will use time-of-day pricing. “Customers choosing to travel in the express lanes will only be charged during rush hour travel periods. A $0.50 static toll will be implemented Monday through Friday from 6:00 AM–10:00 AM and from 3:00 PM–7:00 PM. Customers will not be charged a toll to use the express lanes during all other times.”
Depending on the volume of vehicles, the toll may increase during peak traffic.
Toll roads are not popular in northeast Florida and were removed years ago. At least travelers have a choice with the Express Lanes, while the effort helps with traffic congestion.
Jacksonville is one of the major locations for travelers entering and leaving Florida, especially on the east coast. Travelers will notice construction on major highways in and around Jacksonville, including work for additional Express Lanes. It’s best to check your routes beforehand, and have a map handy, as GPS directions may not be updated as frequently as the highway patterns change.
Apps like Florida 511 (FL511) and WAZE provide fairly up-to-date information; but you may still need a map to navigate construction and by-pass routes in case of an emergency on the major highways.
If you need a SunPass during your visit to Florida, which could give you a discount on certain tolls, you may obtain one at a welcome center as you enter the state. Certain retailers have them too. I suggest checking the SunPass website for more information, including where the SunPass may be used in other states. https://sunpass.com
It’s safe boating week and time to think more clearly about our activities in and around the water. Whether you boat or float it’s good to recognize safe procedures. If you are not safe in the boat then it’s likely you’ll float in the water; and hopefully not be subdued by the elements. If you float and are not careful then you may encounter a boat. https://safeboatingcampaign.com
In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 658 deaths in the U.S. from boating incidents, with 75 percent of those deaths caused by drowning. Of those deaths, 85 percent are reported as not wearing their life jackets.
In the U.S. there is currently a national boat safety emphasis going on now. National Safe Boating Week kicked off with “Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day,” May 17. Although I don’t work in a workplace any longer I don’t recall seeing anyone wearing a flotation device around. Did you? #safeboating
The safe boating campaign goes on throughout the boating season, whenever that is in your own area around the world.
I’m curious! How are these safety procedures presented and followed in other places of the world?
The Safe Boating Campaign reminds boaters to follow these safety tips:
Take a boating safety course.
Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
Watch the weather.
No distracted boating.
Travel at safe speeds.
Never boat under the influence.
Have more than one communication device that works when wet.
I guess it depends on your interpretation but we each have a work zone, don’t we? Okay, for those who don’t work outside the home how about our safety or comfort zone? Think about it for a minute.
We all want our “zones” to be free from threats, abuse, danger and even discomfort. We need to strive toward ensuring personal safe zones for sure, but let’s expand it also for driving as well.
It’s really not much difference between the small zone and the large work zone where so many workers around the highways have to work. Give it some thought again. Construction, maintenance and emergency response along our roadways create work zones for those who make a living around them.
If we realized a family member works just a couple of feet from people driving at high speeds, and sometimes while being distracted, would we be more conscious about slowing down and being observant? I think so. They deserve to work in a safe environment too, and come home safely to their loved ones.
This week is the National Work Zone Awareness Week 2019 in the U.S.
I’m not sure how work zone safety is emphasized in other countries, and I would like to know, but let’s be more mindful as we see these orange zones, barrels and flags while driving the highways. They are not placed there for decoration.
National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), in its 19th year, is a national public awareness campaign that spreads the message that we are all responsible for work zone safety. This year’s NWZAW is April 8-12, 2019, and this year’s theme is “Drive Like You Work Here”. (Florida Department of Transportation and National Highway Safety Administration)
Recent statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) show (from 2016 to 2017) a two percent increase in total work zone fatalities and increase from 668 to 710 total work zone crashes. Those startling statistics further demonstrate the importance of spreading awareness of work zone safety and participating in NWZAW to spread the message that we all play a role in getting roadway workers home safely.
Additionally, there were a total of 158,000 work zone crashes total in 2016—of which 42,000 were injury-involved crashes that resulted in 61,000 injuries – which underscores the need for further awareness of how to behave and drive safely in work zones.
U.S. National Highway Safety Administration
This awareness campaign is only a week but let’s allow it to carry over throughout the year.
Who knew that March is Women’s Bike History
Month? I discovered this while comparing
Florida’s Bike Month to the May Bike Month by The League of American Bicyclists,
established in 1880.
So, I’ll combine some of the history of the contribution of women along with come bicycle safety tips.
1896, Susan B. Anthony — one of the most
important leaders in the women’s suffrage movement — shared her perspective on
bicycling with intrepid reporter, Nellie Bly. “Let me tell you what I
think of bicycling,” she said. “I think it has done more to
emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of
freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by
on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” https://bikeleague.org/content/march-womens-bike-history-month
realized this. According to the Bike
League article, Anthony wasn’t alone. The article mentioned her friend, and
fellow suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wrote an entire article for
the American Wheelman praising the bicycle for encouraging the
building of “good roads,” and increasing people’s mobility. It states, most importantly, though: “The
bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect and self-reliance,
and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers
do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.”
not certain about the latter part of the statement but maybe that was a
challenge enough to encourage women to begin expanding their horizons with
confidence. Could it have been simply a bicycle
that helped trigger this progress?
So, as you warm up and exercise on your bike that has been sitting around for the winter, let’s highlight a few safety pointers. First, give your bike a safety inspection and make sure it is operating properly, including lights.
I realize each state and country has its own special rules and laws so I’ll just stick to a few things to consider. Consult your own local laws where you ride – and when we travel to other locations. Let’s not assume our knowledge is sufficient for where we ride. Check before your ride!
Florida is a great place to ride your bike. If you are driving in Florida, please be aware of cyclists. Cyclists need to be aware of vehicle drivers as well. Let’s have mutual respect and protection.
Florida Department of Transportation’s Alert Today Florida program has key information, and posted the proclamation from Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, for March Bicycle Month. https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/ Florida knows the importance of doing everything possible to make roadways safer for all users.
I enjoyed making presentations to teens and adults alike to encourage vehicle, bike and pedestrian safety. I had fun re-enacting Larry, the crash test mannequin (which I changed to Larry the Smarty since he now buckles up, rides safely and walks safely.
Here are some simple tips to remember:
– A bicycle in Florida is a legal vehicle on roadways. Don’t assume though that people see you or know the law. Better to be safe.
– Cyclists on roadways fare best when they act, and are treated as vehicles.
– Bicyclists may ride on sidewalks as well but must yield to pedestrians and provide an audible signal while approaching them.
– Some local laws may not permit a bicyclist to ride on the sidewalk, so check before you ride.
– Ride in the same direction as the traffic since the bike is an authorized road vehicle.
– If a designated bike lane is in the roadway, some local laws require bicyclists to use it instead of the sidewalk. That may not be safe for children though.
– If you see an image of a bicycle on the roadway, called a sharrow, it means a bicyclist should be expected to be in the roadway. These are often alternatives to designated bike lanes when there is insufficient space to build the separate lanes.
March 8-17, 2019 is Bike Week in Daytona, Florida. Motorcycles are everywhere, practically. Don’t let them sneak up on your blind side, okay?
Dubbed the “World’s Largest Motorcycle Event,”
Bike Week is a 10-day Daytona Beach area event filled
with high-octane street festivals, concerts, motorcycle
races, bike shows, rallies, manufacturer showcases, live music
daily at iconic venues like Destination Daytona, Iron Horse Saloon, Main Street
Station, Full Moon Saloon, Boot Hill Saloon, Bank and Blues and much
more! Established more than seven decades ago, over 500,000 motorcyclists
make the annual pilgrimage to this Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event. https://www.daytonabeach.com/event/daytona-bike-week-2019/38445/
My personal opinion – drive and enter with caution.
This video clip reflects how bikes can come out of nowhere.
I rode a motorcycle years ago and enjoyed jumping the hills and riding the trails, but was always cautious maneuvering around traffic. I would venture to say most large bike owners, such as Harley Davidson riders, are more conservative than the sleek, high-energy bikes, which remind me of road rockets. Do you agree?
“Ready, set, go”, or “drivers,
start your engines.”
For those traveling Interstate
95 in the U.S, particularly in northeast Florida, you will encounter an extra amount
of traffic. Daytona 500’s speed weeks
are this week and the big race – Daytona 500 in Daytona, Florida – is Sunday.
You’ll notice not only extra traffic but people driving like they are in the race itself, going excessively over the speed limit and darting between other vehicles with drivers trying to drive safely.
I appreciate our law enforcement doing what they can, but they can’t be everywhere. SO! Please drive with extra caution and please don’t let the less responsible ruin your travel plans, nor prevent you from “arriving alive.” https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/arrivealive/.
Most people don’t realize they can call *FHP or *347 while in Florida to help with an emergency on the Interstate, or to report a hazardous condition.
Also, for those traveling in the Daytona area please be aware of an increase in pedestrians and bicyclists as thousands of people walk, bike and drive the area. Florida Department of Transportation’s “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” emphasis overall and specific traffic safety at https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/
Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle with a 155 miles-per-hour fury and extensive storm surge. It continued into Georgia as a hurricane wreaking significant damage and continues to impact much of the southeastern U.S.A.
Travelers through the southeastern U.S. need to keep aware of travel conditions as they will change regularly even after Hurricane Michael exits.
Thousands of emergency response team members are already working life-saving missions first, along with safety and security. Thousands more from various areas are currently traveling to the impacted areas.
There are more than 3,000 Florida National Guard troops on active status already working missions in support of key agencies.
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is overseeing and coordinating response efforts as directed by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott. The U.S. Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been planning and positioning support to assist respective state governments and are already performing duties.
It is not feasible to identify all of those responding, as practically every local, state and federal U.S. agency is working on behalf of the citizens and guests.
Some of the first ones responding to help save lives involves the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). They normally respond with a variety of specialized equipment, including shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel-drive vehicles. They all work in conjunction with law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies.
If you are considering traveling through the southeastern U.S., please travel only if necessary – at least until the major response and recovery efforts allow you to safely do so.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) highly suggests using one of their preferred tools to monitor roadway conditions. Florida 511. Also, please be aware that many of the roadways throughout the path of the storm are closed due to damage or being under water. It is best not to drive through water. “Turn around, don’t drown.”
Know before you go.
Information on roadway conditions and closures is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Florida 511. Drivers may dial 511 from their mobile phones to receive updates. (Please stop safety while using the device or let a passenger use it.) 511 is a free resource, however, cell phone minutes and text message charges may apply. Updates are also available on the web at www.FL511.com.
Georgia’s Department of Transportation Special Response Teams will begin clearing impacted roadways once the worst of the storm passes. In the event of major flooding, crews will wait until waters recede to begin clean up. Priority routes will be cleared first to ensure the public maintains access to hospitals, trauma centers and other public facilities.
Call 511 to report flash flooding, downed trees or other obstructions on roadways or bridges impeding travel
Take shelter as the system passes through the state
Do not to drive around barricades that are in place for motorist’s safety or through standing water
Residents should never clear tree limbs, downed trees or debris from roadways, as live power lines could be tangled in debris and cause injury or death; instead, wait for Georgia DOT and Georgia Power crews
Motorists who must drive should always treat flashing red and non-operational signals as a four-way stop
Go or stay, when in harms way? To me, that’s a no-brainer. If my life and family is at risk for loss of life, do you think I would stay in a threat environment without making a change? For sure – NO.
However, many people choose to remain in the main threat area during catastrophic weather – such as Hurricane Michael churning in the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. (Update: Now that Michael has made landfall the decision was made and people have to live with that decision; however, those still in the path of Michael into Georgia and northward can still make an informed decision.)
I’m watching Michael and it brings back memories of Ivan.
I recall working in Florida’s State Emergency Management Center in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan attacked the Florida Panhandle area that borders Alabama.
The Category 3 storm struck with a fury, pushing the ocean on shore and blowing structures apart.
The general public probably doesn’t understand the concept of all the work going on behind-the-scenes in so many emergency planning teams and centers when a disaster strikes. I know! I’ve been there and observed firsthand. It is AMAZING all the dedication and countless hours performed by government employees and volunteers.
Preparations for Hurricane Michael remain similar to those crises of years past as thousands prepare, respond and recover.
People can help. Local emergency management teams know the areas best and they have studied their areas in detail. If they say to evaluate or take certain precautions, please do so. Once the main threat of a hurricane is underway, emergency response teams can’t respond.
I recall a phone call I received during Hurricane Ivan.
A dad called from California stating he was talking on the phone with his daughter who was in a condominium on the beach near Pensacola, Florida. She was in her room a few stories above ground level.
The dad said his daughter mentioned the winds were picking up and she could see the ocean pouring in at the bottom floor. He pleaded for her to take cover and protect herself.
Then … all of a sudden… he heard glass breaking and whirling wind. He had no sound nor response from his daughter. He provided the address to me and asked for an emergency responder to check on her. I advised they will not be able to check until conditions subside. He seemed desperate.
I told the dad I would pass his information to our law enforcement emergency support team and they may be able to relay information to the search-and-rescue teams when they begin their mission as soon as conditions permit.
– Ron Tittle
So…if you have loved ones around the potential impact areas, please encourage them to listen to local authorities and heed their advice.
Also, continue to monitor local and national news.The Weather Channel is excellent at keeping the public updated. https://weather.com/
Everyone should also understand how so many agencies are poised and respond immediately when safe to do so. Currently more than 1,500 Florida National Guard troops are placed in active service by Florida’s governor with thousands on stand-by.
The Guard typically performs planning and staging missions beforehand to ensure their resources are properly placed and ready to move in immediately to the impacted areas.
Many military missions will include helping with search-and-rescue, security, aviation support, moving supplies and equipment, and so many other responsibilities as determined by the State Emergency Operations Center. Usually hundreds or thousands of Guard troops come from other states, along with active duty federal military, Coast Guard and other agencies.
State agencies conduct similar planning and response. Fish and Wildlife Commission teams do quite well in search-and-rescue along with various law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue teams.
The Florida Department of Transportation has emergency operations centers working in conjunction with the states’s emergency management center. They have professional engineers who have already been studying the potential impact of the storm and anticipate how they will respond quickly to assist in recovery. Once conditions permit, teams will provide a damage assessment to ensure bridges and roadways are safe for the public to use. The traveling public must be patient. It takes time to provide sufficient assessments. All of the response efforts are coordinated with the State Emergency Management Center to ensure the most effective and safe response to, within and from the impact areas, and so the proper resourcing can be provided. They also coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Similar to Hurricane Ivan, I suspect many roads will have some of their structure base washed out or damaged in some way to prevent vehicles from crossing. The repairs could take some time.
So! Do you risk it with your life or family? After all, our protection and safety is the primary responsibility of government. Yet we have to take responsibility as well.
Isn’t it amazing how beauty can soon change into a dangerous, catastrophic threat to life and property?
Who can imagine how one morning a sunrise can present such beauty and within hours change? That’s how our physical environment can change without notice and sometimes we’re not prepared for the threats of life.
Take Hurricane Florence for instance and how the sunrise begins to give way to the storms that encroach on our freedom and peace of mind.
Just like our lives we yield to that which overcomes; however, we don’t have to declare defeat. I believe that through God’s amazing grace and help we can overcome any obstacle.
I’m thinking of those in the path of Hurricane Florence, or traveling through the southeastern U.S. during the next couple of weeks.
Residents and guests near the ocean in the southeastern U.S. should be aware of the dangers and should listen closely to local emergency managers. The waves are tremendously dangerous with rip tides and currents.
Even that which is now may become no more.
The calm soon turns into anger as the ocean rises to meet the borders that contain it. Yes, winds are devastating but storm surge is for real. Can you just imagine 13 feet of ocean rise over land? And, considering some of the waves from Florence are being documented at around 30 feet, what can stand in the relentless onslaught of power.
Those traveling in the southeastern U.S. need to be aware that thousands, if not millions of people will be traveling more that normal, extending outward to most of the surrounding states and then some.
Expect traffic to be tremendous on Interstates and local roads and the airports to be overcrowded.
As winds increase, expect bridges to close for traffic
Expect restaurants to be crowded, and possibly without food – even before the storm makes its major impact. Lodging will be overbooked. You will likely have difficulty getting ANY rooms throughout the region.
Hurricanes have so much destructive power that includes multiple tornadoes as well as tremendous storm surge – and pushing water inland.
Even days, if not weeks, expect flooding and all sorts of other hazards.
There will be major power outages and fires, leaking fuel and other chemicals. Downed power lines and trees will adorn most landscapes. If one can evacuate the identified area please do so. If one can’t evacuate safely, please notify local authorities to seek assistance BEFOREHAND.
Once the major storm threat has passed, it will take quite a while to return to any kind of normal conditions. People will be without water and food for days, if not weeks. Emergency response teams will do their best to help residents and guests to recover but everyone must take responsibility to prepare and be safe.
Only use generators outside with ventilation. That’s a safety precaution for all times, not just emergencies. Remember! Keeping you and your family safe and secure is your primary responsibility.
I’m an advocate for non-profits and faith-based organizations like churches throughout the region to organize to help those traveling and may be stranded, while those within the path help those who cannot travel. This is a great opportunity to love our neighbors and re-enforce local response efforts.
Those who volunteer to help should also register with respective emergency management divisions for coordination and accountability.
Again, those traveling in the U.S. should check regularly with news and emergency management authorities to determine up-to-date information.
If you are traveling outside the projected path you may likely have Internet connection and phone service but realize those within the storm areas will have difficulty communicating for periods of time. If you don’t have to travel to the projected impact areas please look for other places to visit and enjoy your travels.