Fine’s bill HB 1371, the Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act got unanimous approval from the Florida House State Affairs Committee yesterday. 12 year old Sophia Nelson from Satellite Beach was struck by a vehicle while using a flashing yellow crosswalk on A1A last December. Sophia’s parents joined Fine in Tallahassee yesterday to urge legislators to support they bill.
“We are creating a false sense of security for pedestrians by making them believe they push that button they will be safe. And they are not,” Fine said.
Critics of the crosswalks have said that they are confusing to drivers and that if cars need to stop, then the lights should be red and not yellow.
This is what the bill addresses:
- Highways, streets, roads with no more than two lanes with speed limit less than 35 mph can still use the yellow flashing beacons. It requires red beacons for highways, streets, roads with more than two lanes with a speed limit more than 35 mph.
- The state would ask the federal government to approve the change to red lights. If approved, the changes must be done in 12 months. If the federal government does not approve the request, the agency with jurisdiction over the road must retrofit existing mid-block crosswalks with red flashing lights or remove the crosswalk by Oct. 1, 2024.
- As of October 2019, DOT reports 191 midblock crosswalks with yellow flashing beacons on the state highway system. Of those, there are 113 midblock crosswalks on roads with more than two lanes and speed limits of 35 mph or greater. There are 78 midblock crosswalks on roads with two lanes or less and speed limit under 35 mph.
- State officials estimate it would cost $7.5 million to retrofit the 113 midblock crossings with legally acceptable equipment or to remove the crosswalk completely. The annual cost to maintain the additional required traffic signals and pedestrian hybrid beacons is $74,000.
- State officials determined those costs by assuming 20% of the current yellow flashing beacon lights would be retrofitted with new equipment and 80% of the midblock crossings would be removed.
- The cost to add a traffic signal or pedestrian hybrid beacon at a midblock crosswalk is approximately $300,000. The cost to remove a midblock crosswalk is approximately $7,000. If a traffic signal or pedestrian hybrid beacon is installed, the annual maintenance costs will be approximately $3,200.
The Senate companion bill SB1000 still has another committee hearing to go through before making it to the Senate floor for a vote. If both bills are passed on the floor, the bill will go the the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Sophia’s parents said that they hope that her death will save the lives of others in the future.