New Pedestrian Safety Bill Passes the Florida House
Florida has terrible pedestrian safety, but a new bill passed in honor of a young accident victim could make the roads a little safer for pedestrians going forward. According to Click Orlando, the Florida House has passed the Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act by a wide margin. The vote total was 118 for and only 1 against.
The bill will guarantee that rapidly flashing yellow rectangular beacons are only installed at crosswalks on certain roads, namely those with two lanes and speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less. On other roads, such as those with a higher speed limit, the state will replace flashing-yellow beacons with flashing-red ones. The theory is that red lights offer a clear signal to motorists that they need to stop, whereas yellow lights can send mixed signals. Ultimately, the state needs federal approval for the project.
Nelson, who was in sixth grade, was struck in Satellite Beach in a crosswalk at Ellwood Avenue on December 22, 2019. The crosswalk had only a flashing-yellow beacon to warn motorists. Nelson ultimately died of a brain injury when her family made the difficult decision to take her off a respirator on Christmas Day.
The driver who struck the young girl was an 83-year-old woman cited by police for failing to stop at a crosswalk. There is no report on the criminal sanctions this woman faced.
Clear Signals at Crosswalks are Needed
As legislators have noted, yellow lights can mean different things to different people. Some might correctly surmise that they need to slow down and be careful. But other motorists might interpret the lights to mean that a red light is soon to flash, so they hit the gas pedal and gun it. When motorists misinterpret what flashing yellow lights mean, they can be driving much too fast when they approach crosswalks. It is very easy for someone to be struck and killed.
The victim’s parents were in attendance as the bill came up for a vote and stressed that they were pleased. With luck, this new law will make it clear to motorists that they need to slow down as they approach crosswalks and intersections. A companion bill, which is identical, has been introduced into the Florida Senate and is currently working its way through the Appropriations Committee. If passed, Governor DeSantis will decide whether to sign it into law.
More is Needed
This bill is a step in the right direction. But given our terrible safety record, Florida has much more to do. For example, it should create more raised pedestrian bridges and add sidewalks to many streets. Newer communities should also be designed with pedestrian safety at the forefront of everyone’s thinking.
If you or a family member was struck by a vehicle, don’t forget that you can sue for compensation. These lawsuits can also force change, by raising the costs on the state of not doing anything. Depending on the situation, you might be able to sue the motorist who hit you and the government for having a dangerous crosswalk.