‘Just one fatality is horrible, but 509?’ Marion County officials look to lower number of deadly crashes

Operation Commitment to Zero hopes to reduce traffic fatalities to 0; Officials looking for public participation

OCALA, Fla. – County officials and nearby leaders are coming together to make roads safe in Marion County by working to end traffic deaths.

“Just one fatality is horrible, but 509?” Battalion Chief Pam Driggers with the Marion County Fire Rescue said.

From 2015 to 2020, 509 people have lost their lives in crashes in Marion County.

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In 2021 alone, the number of deaths was 91. One of those is 10-year-old Ja’Saiah Williams, who died after being hit by a vehicle while walking to his bus stop in November.

His death and others like his are why leaders from various traffic and safety met to announce the kickoff of Operation Commitment to Zero.

“We were just concerned about the continuing incline of accidents and the seriousness of them,” said Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone. “If we can help educate people to be responsible for themselves on the roadway, we’re hopeful we can bring that number down”.

Wednesday’s Ocala-Marion Transportation Organization (TPO) meeting identified speeding and distracted driving as two main causes for accidents in Marion county.

Loreen Bobo with the state Department of Transportation said one of the solutions being discussed was lowering speeds on roadways when needed.

Bobo said that it takes a driver 315 feet to stop going 20 miles per hour while a driver going 40 mph takes more than 700 feet to stop.

“If you hit them at 40 mph, they have a 10% chance of surviving that crash,” she said. “If you were driving 20 mph, they have a 90% chance of surviving that crash, that’s why speed matters”.

Stone had this question for reckless drivers.

“Do you want to get a phone call that your loved one is no longer alive because of someone’s actions behind the wheel or the actions they’ve been taking,” the commissioner said.

Officials said the work starts now and that the Marion County TPO really depends on public participation.

They provided this survey link so anyone can become a part of the solution.

About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.