In Orlando on October 27, 2004, five-year-old Angelica Velez and her two-year-old sister Victoria crossed four-lane Goldenrod Road in a crosswalk with their mother. Ashley Townsend, age 22, ran the red light and killed the two girls as their mother watched in horror. Ashley was allegedly talking on her cell phone at the time. This tragedy brought intense attention in Central Florida to the need for improved motorist behavior and justice in our traffic system, but it was merely one of many such tragedies. The legal outcomes of this and similar incidents should address not only how careless drivers are punished; we must find ways for our justice, engineering, and education systems to help prevent such crashes in the first place.
Poor driving behavior is rampant in Florida. According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles there are over 120,000 licenses revoked each year, and another 29,000 suspended due to points alone. Over 114,000 motorists were convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license in 2006; for all types of criminal driving violations there were over 235,000 convictions. 2.8 million non-criminal citations were handed out to Florida drivers in 2006.
Florida’s fatal crash rate is rising while the national rate drops; it is rising faster than our population. The cost of this mayhem falls hardest on our streets’ most vulnerable users – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists -- but all users of our roads are affected. It is an injustice that we permit the careless and reckless to continue to wield such power, while those who present little or no risk to others are discouraged from using our streets.
The former president of Boston University Dr. John Silber said, “The only standard of performance that can sustain a free society is excellence.” Considering the destructive power wielded by those in motor vehicles, we must raise our expectations. As humans we almost always fall short of our goals, so a goal of mere adequacy in motor vehicle operation inevitably results in too many incompetent motorists. Our goal must be excellence. Dr. Silber went on to ask, “[D]o we have the right as citizens in a free society to reject excellence on behalf of others who may not be so foolish?” No; the vulnerable among us deserve excellence behind the wheel.
Florida Bicycle Association invites you to join us to discuss problems and solutions, to build a coalition with a vision for change and plan for action, at the first Florida Traffic Justice Coalition meeting at the ProBike®/ProWalk Florida Conference in Orlando on August 27th from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Downtown Embassy Suites Hotel, 191 E. Pine Street. While legislative solutions are certainly on the table, we’re looking for more; for creative approaches to changing the culture to one with high expectations for users of our public ways.
The format of the meeting will be as follows:
1:30-2:00 Overview, why we are here, encapsulate issues, break-out instructions
2:00-3:45 Focus groups
4:00-4:15 Recap group discussions
4:15-4:30 Next steps
Mohandas Gandhi said, “You must make the injustice visible.” That is the first step. Only when injustice becomes fully visible and the voices of the victims are heard can we understand what is needed to remedy it.
Please join us for this important meeting. There is no fee, however, if you wish to attend the ProBike®/ProWalk Florida Conference, visit http://www.probikeprowalkflorida.com/ for details. Please contact Conference Director Bill Richards at 352-377-8342 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding your availability to attend the Florida Traffic Justice Coalition meeting.