Florida girl’s death sparks push to ban yellow flashing pedestrian crossing signals

Florida

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The death of a child in Brevard County has sparked legislation aimed at increasing pedestrian safety.

The bill targets yellow flashing pedestrian crossing signals that lawmakers argue create a false sense of security.

Just before Christmas, 12-year-old Sophia Nelson was crossing an intersection when tragedy struck. A car blew through the flashing yellow pedestrian crossing signal, hitting Sophia.

She passed away on Christmas Day.

“She put trust in that button when she pushed it and she put trust in the yellow lights,” Sophia’s father Mark Nelson said Thursday to a House committee.

Sophia’s parents shared her story with lawmakers, putting a face on the bill named in her memory. It would outlaw the use of the yellow flashing signals in most cases.

The proposed bill would allow the yellow flashing signals to stay under certain conditions – as long as the road is only two lanes and the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less.

All other signals would have to be removed or replaced with red flashing lights.

“Either we will put in devices that actually work or we will remove them so pedestrians actually know you’re going into a dangerous intersection,” Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) said. “Don’t rely on some flashing yellow light to make sure you’re safe.”

Sophia’s family said her organs were donated and used to save four lives. Now they hope the bill carrying her name can save even more.

“We feel that those crosswalks are unsafe and they give a false sense of security. And we want to honor our daughter and her legacy and try to save other people from ever going through what we’ve had to go through,” Sophia’s mother Jill Nelson said.

The switch to red flashing lights will require federal approval but, federal approval or not, all the yellow flashing lights will still have to be removed within four years.

The Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act still needs to pass one more Senate committee and clear floor votes in both chambers.

If signed into law, the federal government would have one year to approve the use of red flashing pedestrian crossing signals.

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