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Monday, September 26, 2022
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We’ve seen two of our classmates killed by cars on University Avenue since December. That’s too many.

On Saturday evening, a car crash on University Avenue resulted in the death of UF theater freshman Sophia Lambert and the hospitalization of five others.

UF released a statement the following day about the crash closing with a promise: “The safety of our campus is paramount, and we want you to know conversations are underway regarding pedestrian and vehicular safety, on and around our campus.”

But will conversations be enough?

Just over a month ago, 18-year-old UF student Maggie Paxton was tragically killed in a hit-and-run crash on University Avenue. The driver still has not been identified, and UF never released a statement acknowledging the crash. Was her death not enough to take the issue of traffic safety on University Avenue seriously? If action had been taken then, could we have avoided the terrible events that transpired on Saturday evening? 

It’s easy to criticize UF for not advocating on behalf of its students’ safety, but the responsibility doesn’t rest solely on the university’s shoulders. University Avenue is a state-owned road, meaning our state representatives are in the position to make the safety changes needed.

Who are our state representatives? Just to name two, there are Rep. Chuck Clemons and Sen. Keith Perry. Just in case you were wondering. 

If UF’s administration and our state representatives needed ideas on where to start, one traffic safety petition has proposed installing speed bumps on University Avenue and has already garnered thousands of signatures. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, the estimated cost for a speed bump is $2,000, a mere drop in the bucket of our state spending, and about $1,000 less than what one UF student pays for full-time in-state tuition in a semester.

Another idea is to reduce the current 35 mph speed limit. In the Florida Driver Handbook, the standard speed limit for municipal, business and residential areas is 30 mph. Why would University Avenue, a road littered with student apartment complexes, UF dorms and known for heavy student foot traffic, boast a higher speed? If a 15-year-old is expected to know standard speed limits to get a learners’ permit, our elected officials who put these speed limits in place should too. 

Drivers could hold themselves accountable through the use of radar speed displays alongside the road. Speed enforcement cameras could be implemented as well. Even barriers could be placed alongside the road to avoid hit-and-run situations as we saw back in December. The list of solutions goes on and on.

We’ve heard the UF promise to start conversations before, but we have yet to see results on the other end. We’ll be listening closely to see where it goes. Students shouldn’t be afraid to walk off campus, let alone walk along the border of campus. The more time we waste on conversations, the more we put pedestrian lives at risk. Now is the time for action, and it needs to be immediate.  

Call Rep. Chuck Clemons, Sen. Keith Perry, and the UF Administration about making University Avenue safer like your life depends on it. Because frankly, it does. 

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