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Friday, January 15, 2021

SG Senator plans legislation to improve traffic safety

SG Senator takes initiative to improve traffic safety on campus after fatal hit-and-run accidents late Fall

Following three hit-and-run crashes that killed two people and critically injured one in December, a UF Student Government Senator has plans to implement a traffic safety project this Spring.

Senator Zachery Utt (Inspire, Murphree) is working on a $10,000 to $30,000 project that will focus on researching Gainesville traffic patterns and implementing student safety courses. The budget will come from SG’s $22 million budget funded through student fees, Utt said.

The project will create a commission of experts from UF faculty to study Gainesville traffic patterns and introduce a transportation safety course to educate students when they apply for a campus parking permit. 

If the project passes, a transportation safety commission will study and publish science-driven data on ways to improve traffic safety in Gainesville, Utt said. Possible changes include adding  safer intersection signalisation, pedestrian bridges and tunnels, Utt said.

There hasn’t been a significant or alarming uptake in hit-and run accidents, but the Gainesville Police Department is still working to improve the safety of Gainesville pedestrians, bikers and drivers, GPD public information officer Graham Glover said. Any potential traffic safety city projects will be introduced during the Gainesville City Commission meeting next week, he said.

Investigators are still working to identify the drivers in the recent hit-and-run crashes, Glover said.

“We hope that in the weeks ahead we will be able to have some answers,” Glover said.

Glover said he encourages pedestrians and drivers to be extra alert of their surroundings and traffic safety regulations as the semester begins and traffic increases in Gainesville, mostly in student-heavy areas around campus.

In late December, a hit-and-run accident killed UF student Margaret Paxton.

“We want to ensure the tragedy that happened at the end of last semester doesn’t happen again,” Glover said. 

Utt plans to collaborate with UF Transportation and Traffic Services to educate students on traffic safety. 

Driver’s education instructors and transportation professionals will develop the specifics of the course, approaching traffic safety from both the driver’s and pedestrian’s perspectives, Utt said.

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The course will educate students on Gainesville traffic rules, patterns and safety, ranging from parking ticket enforcement to how to arrive home safely after drinking, Utt said.

The legislation will be written and submitted to the Budget & Appropriations Committee, a group of senators who decide what budget-related legislation goes to senators to be voted on, within the next month, Utt said.

The project will show students and families who lost loved ones to hit-and-runs that there can be change, he said. 

“This doesn’t have to happen again,” Utt said. “That’s what it is all about, making sure students don’t subject themselves to the kind of conditions where a hit and run is likely.”

Contact Carolina Ilvento at cilvento@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CarolinaIlvento.

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