Over the first two weeks of the Fall semester, the Florida Department of Transportation has been setting up a booth on campus to educate students on traffic safety.
FDOT members have been handing out items such as arm-band reflectors, informational flyers and phone-screen cleaners.
This effort follows deadly accidents that took place on University Avenue last Spring. Two UF students and one professor were struck and killed by cars within one month of each other.
The incidents motivated UF students to advocate for increased safety efforts, which resulted in Gainesville and FDOT working together to implement new safety measures on University Avenue, including the installation of speed tables, adjusted signal timings and a reduced speed limit.
Additionally, the City of Gainesville converted 14th Street and 15th Street into one-way roads.
Troy Roberts, an FDOT spokesperson, said part of its initiative on campus is to inform the wave of new people about the changes made to create safer traffic patterns.
“There’s a lot of new students; I think UF is saying this is their largest class they have ever had of incoming freshmen,” Roberts said. “But part of that, you’ve got a lot of sophomores on campus that this may be their first time on campus too.”
“In terms of engineering projects, we’ve got a couple more coming up early next year,” Roberts said.
Among other planned changes, FDOT plans to create raised crosswalks near University Avenue and 14th Street, which will replace the temporary speed tables, Roberts said. FDOT also plans to add more crosswalk signals on 16th Street and 19th Street to give pedestrians another place to cross on University Avenue, he added.
As FDOT and the city work to make these changes, Robert said FDOT understands the importance of promoting the traffic safety campaign to UF students.
“We thought ‘what better time to come out and push a safety message than the first week of school,’” Roberts said.
Roberts and his colleagues are pushing a complete safety message by speaking to pedestrians about using crosswalks as well as speaking to motorists and bicyclists to ensure they are obeying the rules of the road.
“We keep trying to reinforce the three E’s of safety, which is enforcement, education and engineering,” he said.
So far, everyone they have spoken to passing by, as well as their partners, such as UF and the UFPD, seem to be happy with the changes that have been made, Roberts said.
“We’ve been told by a lot of people that the speed tables may be more of a bumpy ride, it may slow down their commute, but they’re happy they’re there because they feel safer with them out there,” Roberts said.
Since these changes there is evidence that motorists are significantly slower than in the past, he said.
A speed study was done earlier this year that showed the average speed on West University Avenue was 28.7 miles per hour, Roberts said. Following the installation of the temporary speed tables, the average speed was 22.5 miles per hour, which represents a reduction in speed of about 21%.
“The effects of the speed tables, along with the signal retiming along the corridor is what allowed FDOT to lower the speed limit earlier this summer,” Roberts said.
Kyle Crowley, a 21-year-old geomatics senior, said the changes worked out better than he originally anticipated.
“I was a little skeptical of the speed bumps at first because I thought it would negatively affect the flow of traffic,” Crowley said. “But they really haven’t slowed things down that much and were done with good intentions.”
However, Crowley does believe that more education and promotion should be done to raise awareness of driving under the influence.
FDOT does not plan to stop with UF, Roberts said. They will be visiting other college campuses such as Flagler College, UNF and Santa Fe College to promote the traffic safety message to more students.
“It requires everyone to work together for a safer environment,” Roberts said.
Contact Elena Barrera at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elenabarreraaa.
Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently the University Administration reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family.