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

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
February 21, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- 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,” said Mark Nelson, Sophia’s father during a House Committee Thursday.

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 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, don't rely on some flashing yellow light to make sure you're safe,” said House sponsor Representative Randy Fine.

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,” said Sophia’s mother Jill Nelson.

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.

By: Capitol News Service
February 20, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- 12-year-old Sophia Nelson was crossing A1A in Satellite Beach with her father and siblings just before Christmas after she pushed a button to activate flashing yellow safety lights.

A driver didn’t stop, hitting Sophia and causing brain trauma.

Sophia died Christmas Day and now legislation to replace those flashing yellow lights with a constant red light has cleared the House State Affairs Committee in the Capitol with her mother Jill and father Mark watching.

"So she started walking and she just put her trust in that button and she put her trust in those yellow flashing lights and she put her trust in that driver to see her and to stop in time. She was just out of my reach and when I realized the car wasn't going to slow down, as a father you can't help but... I was her protector and I just don't want to ever see that happen again,” said Mark Nelson.

The legislation, called the Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act, mandates communities that don’t want to replace the flashing yellow lights with the constant red light, must remove the yellow lights because they offer a false sense of security.

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