Dear Fellow Gators,
I’m sure you have heard about the tragic accident that occurred on University Avenue last week.
I’m sure you have heard about the petitions and the loud, but hushed, conversation of traffic safety on campus.
Now, it’s time for you to hear a story, my story, about the events I’ve experienced over the past two months to put the urgency and severity of this issue into perspective.
Let me first begin by telling you how I feel. If I’m being honest, I’m not doing too good. This past December, I lost a beautiful sorority sister, Maggie Paxton, whom I never got the privilege of meeting, due to a hit-and-run on University Avenue.
This past Saturday night, I was waiting at a stoplight on University Avenue in my car. I noticed a group of girls around my age were congregated on the sidewalk directly to my right. I had my windows down, so I noticed them laugh, smile and hug each other while waiting to cross University Avenue for a night of fun. I remember thinking that they reminded me so much of my friends and me.
Two of the girls hugged each other, I blinked, and the happiest sight turned into a complete dystopia. That night, 18-year-old Sophia Lambert died following the crash.
Ever since 7:28 p.m., I’ve felt like time just stopped. I knew there was nothing I could do to help or prevent the car from coming, but I saw the whole thing happen. In that moment, the only thought on my mind was my sorority sister, Maggie, and if one little thing was different, that even could’ve been me who was hit. It could have been any of us, and it could have been prevented.
As the Gator Nation, we need to unify and push for change. We need to call for stricter safety measures along University Avenue.
Here’s how to start. First, sign the petitions. There’s a general petition calling for more traffic safety on campus and another calling to install speed bumps on University Avenue. Installing speed bumps forces drivers to slow down, lowering the likelihood of an accident. Lowering speed limits, installing cameras, placing safety barricades along sidewalks and light-up crosswalks are other fast solutions to fixing the issue.
How can we accomplish this? Contact your state representatives and elected officials. Email the Florida Department of Transportation. Call on University of Florida leaders. The first step toward change is to raise your voice. We all need to be a voice for Maggie and Sophia in order to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
I’ll never forget that night, but I’ve seen firsthand that action needs to be taken now before we lose another Gator. We’re here for an education, and we should feel safe doing so. There are no excuses left, Gator Nation — our lives depend on it.
Kailey Kiss is a senior undergraduate public relations major at UF and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.