GPD announces initiative to reduce traffic deaths

Downtown Gainesville
Downtown Gainesville

The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) has announced plans to step up traffic enforcement to increase safety on roadways near the University of Florida.

The Gator STEP (Special Traffic Enforcement Program) will include additional patrols focused on crosswalk, pedestrian, speeding and scooter safety violations. GPD will also conduct a crash analysis for the 1300 block to the 2200 block of West University Avenue to identify hazards and potential safety measures, according to a department press release.

“We believe Gator STEP will help us and the community identify additional means to address the recent traffic accidents that have occurred near the UF campus,” the GDP press release said.

Last weekend a 19-year-old UF student from Miami died from injuries she sustained when a traffic accident on West University spilled onto the sidewalk where she was walking. GDP says it is still investigating the incident to understand what factors led to what it called a tragedy.

The GDP also cited fatal accidents in January and December of 2020 that led to the Gator STEP program. It said the program will be a joint effort: “This program will be part of a larger community-wide effort, as GPD works alongside other City of Gainesville, University of Florida, and State of Florida entities to educate and provide for the safety of our Gainesville and University neighbors.”

GDP said it issued almost 9,700 traffic citations in 2020, along with more than 3,100 warnings. The new “high visibility traffic enforcement” will occur primarily along West University Avenue, SW Archer Road, SW 34th Street, and SW 13th Street, but will include other parts of Gainesville.

Gainesville Commissioner-at-large Reina Saco, who called for state action after last weekend’s accident, called Gator STEP a good first move toward increased safety and an assessment of needs in the area.

“Of course, further action will be needed by the state and the city, but we won’t know what those are until we’ve met to discuss options,” she said in an email to Mainstreet Daily News.

Saco said fully addressing the problem—such as having the street redesigned or turning over control to the city—is a long-term project. She reiterated the need for local citizens to contact their state representatives about the issue.

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