Grant to help keep pedestrians safe at USF

Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 17:47:54-05
Julen Solana is one of nearly 42,000 students at the University of South Florida. Like many, he walks to classes.
"Nowadays a lot of accidents happen because people are focusing on their phones and not their surroundings," Solana said.
USF Police Capt. Meg Ross agrees.
"Everyone seems to be distracted nowadays," she said.
In our ride along with Ross, we saw several examples in just minutes. It worries her. 
"I think there are so many cars and so many pedestrians. A lot has changed," Ross said.
Last year she realized she had to do more. The captain was the first to respond to a young girl hit in a crosswalk. 
"The student that was hit [was] on 50th Street, and that is when it hits home. I am a mom and I have adult children that went to college. I could not imagine what that would do to a parent losing a child," Ross said.
She wanted to educate and enforce traffic laws but she needed money.
The captain decided to write a grant, the first in her nearly 30-year career at USF.
She recently got news it was approved.
"I was quite surprised," Ross said. "It was a great surprise."
The grant is $14,607. It not only paid for the pamphlets, but provides two officers approved for overtime four hours a week through May.
They will begin writing citations  for anyone breaking the driving, walking or bicycling laws on campus.
The captain sees it as a potentially life-saving move.
"It is something we can do to assist our community," Ross said.
Students like Solana and Ray Grace agree.
"I definitely think it will make a difference. Knowledge is key and there are actions to back it up," Grace said.
Citations can range anywhere from $50 to $153.
The captain said she's still educating some of the officers on the details and will likely start issuing them next week.