ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Fatal crashes are on the rise in Pinellas County, increasing 3.6 percent over the past five years. Now, transportation leaders are on a mission to save lives. The group Forward Pinellas just set a new goal to reduce fatal crashes by 17 percent over the next two years.
That goal is critically important for the family of Lisa Lee. The St. Petersburg mom and grandmother was hit and killed crossing 18th Avenue South in October. Police still have not caught the driver who ran her over.
Her mother, Sylvia Underdue-Lee says she has been in agony in the four months since her daughter was hit and left to die.
“My baby, my baby, my baby. She didn’t get a chance to live her life," Underdue-Lee said while brushing back tears. “I need closure in my life. My heart aches every day."
Pinellas County averages 83 crashes a day. Over the past seven years, the number of car crashes has nearly doubled.
Lee's family says they're heartbroken knowing other families are suffering from similar losses.
“My mom was all I had,” Lee's son Savon Hunter said with emotion. “Whoever hit her, you reap what you sow.”
Chelsea Favero, with the transportation and pedestrian advocacy group Forward Pinellas, says the main goals are to reduce speeding and distracted driving.
Favero points to an upcoming project St. Petersburg is planning to make 22nd Street South safer. The city wants to lower the speed limit, add bike lanes and make the sidewalks wider. A similar project was recently completed on Martin Luther King/9th Street, which also took away one lane of driving traffic.
“A life is not worth saving 15 seconds off your drive time,” Favero explained. "We pulled drivers and found more than 50 percent would be willing to trade slower speeds for safer streets."
Forward Pinellas is also working to secure grant funding for complete street projects that increase roadway safety.
“Who is going to want to live in an area that isn’t safe? You’re not going to want to raise your family in an area that isn’t safe. It’s critical that we make these changes,” Favero added.
Lee’s family desperately hopes the person who hit Lisa will find the courage to turn themselves in.
“Whoever it is, please, please I’m begging you come forward and give us some kind of closure," Underdue-Lee said while tears slid down her cheeks.