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Second-year anniversary: deadly Florida crashes remembered

Yesterday marked the second-year anniversary of an occurrence that many Floridians starkly remember, and with lingering sadness.

On January 29, 2012, a series of car accidents on the southbound lanes of I-75 near Paynes Prairie State Park in north central Florida took the lives of 11 people. Twenty one other persons were injured.

The deadly pileup south of Gainesville on that morning was caused by extremely low visibility. Foggy conditions predominated and were coupled with heavy smoke from a wildfire at the park.

Tragically, multiple vehicles entered the crash zone unsuspectingly, colliding with other vehicles. Some cars hit large commercial trucks that had stopped on the freeway.

Understandably, there has been much crash-centered talk, and some finger pointing, in the wake of that tragic event. One newspaper marking the anniversary noted that, notwithstanding a Florida Highway Patrol report that primarily attributed the chain collisions to errors committed by multiple driver, the patrol’s response to the accidents was “an even bigger source of frustration.”

The reason: Prior to the crashes, a trooper had reopened a previously closed portion of the interstate.

Changes have ensued in the wake of the occurrence, with reports indicating that more than $2 million will be expended on safety-enhancing roadway improvements expected to be completed sometime next year.

Specifically, a number of technological assists will be implemented on select portions of I-75 and U.S. 441. Those will include infrared cameras, sensors to detect visibility, and vehicle detectors. The tools will be coordinated in a manner that allows for close monitoring of weather and traffic conditions.

The improvements are much needed, notes the Gainesville Sun. The paper adds, though, that more than technology alone is needed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

An editorial piece notes that “commitment from people on the ground to learn from past mistakes” is also required.

Source: The Gainesville Sun, "Editorial: two years later," Jan. 29, 2014

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