Traveling through west-central Florida needs to be safer, and a plan to install a $2.1 million warning system along I-75 near the site of one of the state's most horrific automobile accidents is good place to start. This is government doing what it is supposed to do: spot danger, sound the alarm and provide citizens with the information to make sound choices.
In 2012, fire swept through 62 acres at Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park just south of Gainesville. State troopers temporarily shut down the road after smoke made it difficult to see. But conditions seemed to improve, and troopers reopened the interstate. Then fog rolled in. It wasn't long before cars and semitrailer trucks started slamming into each other, creating a scene that some witnesses likened to Armageddon. Eleven people died and nearly two dozen were injured.
The aftermath of the tragedy brought grief, finger-pointing and questions: Should the troopers have reopened the interstate so soon? Why weren't cameras in place to help detect trouble? And how could this happen again? — a nod to similar circumstances that resulted in a massive pileup in Polk County in 2008. In response, the Legislature funded the new warning system, which will feature standard and infrared cameras, visibility sensors, electronic signs for motorists and 12 closed-circuit television cameras.
That stretch of interstate was long known to suffer foggy conditions, and it's a shame it took tragedy to finally fund improvements. But soon, motorists will have a better chance of knowing the risks and can heed the warnings to pull over.