Opinion: Personal tragedy leads to traffic safety advocacy

The beginning of every year should be a time of hope, with the possibility of changing behavior for the better. Tragically, a traffic crash only three days into this new year ended in death for five children, ages 9 to 14, on Interstate 75 in Gainesville.

My nightmare began on Feb. 23, 1996. My 14-year-old twin daughters were the victims of a crash caused by reckless and distracted driving. Five children were killed, including my daughter Dori. Her twin survived with serious injuries. This event consumed my mind and my heart. I dedicated my life to road safety.

In 2000, I was elected representative for the Florida House, and subsequently re-elected five times.

In 2004, I started the Dori Slosberg Foundation to improve road safety by working with law enforcement, legislators, and the public. In 2009, the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law passed, allowing police officers to stop cars for occupants not wearing seat belts. In 2011, the Dori Slosberg Driver Education Safety Act was approved, adding $5 to traffic tickets. This has contributed more than $85 million directly for driver education programs in public and private schools across Florida.

My two decades of traffic safety advocacy have taught me that learning the cause of crashes is imperative to reducing fatalities. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates many highway crashes, but it is unclear when or if it will investigate the Gainesville tragedy, as staff are on furlough due to the federal shutdown.

I call on the president and Congress to reopen the government so the NTSB can work together with Florida law enforcement and transportation officials to investigate the crash. The parents and family of those lost deserve to know what happened.

IRV SLOSBERG, 

BOCA RATON

Make America Safe Again

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article224216930.html

How can officials make stretch of I-75 safer after deadly crash?

I-TEAM: Task force created to make I-75 safer, but solutions never pursued

By Vic Micolucci – I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Ashley Harding – Reporter, Posted: 7:25 AM, January 07, 2019, Updated: 6:39 PM, January 07, 2019

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Several communities are heartbroken and left with questions following Thursday’s crash that killed five children visiting from Marksville, Louisiana, along with two others. 

For drivers in Alachua County, Thursday’s wreck was not the first crash of this magnitude along this stretch of road. Many other serious crashes have taken place along Interstate 75 in the Alachua/Marion counties area:

  • In 2012, a horrific wreck on I-75 near the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park killed 11 people.
  • In July 2017, a tractor-trailer struck an RV that had pulled off the side of I-75 near Micanopy. The bassist for a metal band based out of New York was killed. 
  • Hours later, a semi-truck driver caused a nine-vehicle wreck after failing to stop and hitting a guardrail on I-75 near Belleview in Marion County.  One person died, several more were injured.

State and local officials have worked to get answers on how to make I-75 safer. It’s such a dangerous stretch of road that Sgt. Art Forgey with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office advises avoiding it.

“It’s bad enough that I tell my friends and loved ones not to get on the interstate,” Forgey said.

At one point, the idea of building a new road between Alachua and Marion counties was discussed but never materialized. The purpose would have been to offset I-75 traffic.

A task force was also created to study documented problems on I-75. Ultimately, that task force made a series of recommendations, including implementing truck-only lanes, expanding freight rail alternatives and enhancing intercity bus service.

But, as the News4Jax I-TEAM has learned, it doesn’t appear as though anyone ever acted on those recommendations. Matt Surrency, mayor of Hawthorne and one of the task force’s members, said he hasn’t seen any of the changes yet.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, local governments have shut down most of the ideas, or at least put them off. That’s a source of frustration to Surrency, whose committee offered some viable guidance.

“I think that you get frustrated after awhile, especially with the pace government works at sometimes,” he said.

Because the cause of Thursday’s crash remains under active investigation, Surrency was reluctant to point fingers. Instead of trying to find someone to blame, he said, now is the time to band together and take action.

“It’s something we can do this year,” Surrency said.

The number of crashes in Alachua County has increased overall, according to data from the Florida Highway Patrol. In 2017, there were 55 fatal vehicle crashes — an increase from both 2015 and 2016.

For now, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is looking at increasing patrols along that stretch of highway. Currently, state troopers and deputies work the road together, but the sheriff wants more resources to deter dangerous driving.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

Florida DOT reveals 94 percent of youngest passengers riding safely

BY CHRIS GALFORD  |   OCTOBER 2, 2018   |   NEWS

 

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) released a report last week highlighting the efforts of most drivers to keep their children safe.

© Shutterstock

The 2018 Child Restraint Survey showed that 94 percent of the state’s infant passengers were restrained properly, and 84 percent of children between 0 and 12 were so restrained. Aiding this has been an increased use of rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster car seats — safety functions which have been shown to reduce fatalities by as much as 71 percent among infants and 54 percent for toddlers.

“As a parent or caregiver, keeping your children safe is always a top priority,” FDOT Secretary Mike Dew said. “Using car seats that are age and size-appropriate is the best way to keep children safe and can reduce serious and fatal injuries by more than half. Make sure your child is always bucked in safely and correctly–every trip, every time.”

Florida law specifically required children to be restrained in separate carriers or integrated car seats until age three. Between ages four and five, children must also ride in a separate carrier, integrated child seat, child booster seat or with a safety belt. FDOT also recommends but does not enforce the notion that children under 12 should ride with seatbelts on in the back seat.