Crossing Roads

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Four people have lost their lives just this year in traffic crashes on Thomas Drive on Panama City Beach. Just this past weekend, one man was hoping to get in an early morning walk before a group fishing trip when he was hit by a car. The driver fled the scene and the victim died later the next day.

Tony Johnson owns Mr. Surf's Surf Shop on Thomas Drive and says he's noticed a change in the last couple of years.

"I come in to work early every morning and there are a lot of joggers out there. There's a lot of people riding their bikes," he says.

Johnson says there is no room for error when pedestrians and drivers share the road, especially with high-rise condos popping up on one side of the road and restaurants and businesses on the other side.

"It's not slow traffic. It's a fast traffic, even though the speed limit is 35 miles an hour, you can look out there and people are driving sometimes 45 mph."

Relief is coming in the area between Joan Avenue to Highway 98 with plans to add bike lanes and sidewalks to the stretch by 2006. However, with more than 100 traffic crashes since January, not all are quick to blame the road for human error.

Cathy Morris has windows facing Thomas Drive from her Beach Bakery and Diner. Morris says you can't blame the road when the drivers are at fault.

"My opinion? People need to go back to driving basically. Get rid of the cellulars and the radios and the cigarettes and everything else and keep on looking out for one another on the road."

And that might be the only answer most can agree with.