MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - South Florida attorney Mark Kaire said the I-95 express lanes in Miami-Dade County are dangerous and need to be fixed. He's calling on drivers to sign an online petition demanding that lawmakers to take action.
Kaire said the express lanes have directly contributed to numerous auto accidents and fatalities.
"They have claimed far too many lives, and the [Florida Department of Transportation] must take immediate action to protect its citizens." Kaire said.
Kaire is representing 36-year-old Stephanie Blossom, who was 26 weeks pregnant when an SUV crossed over the orange poles that divide the express lanes, bringing the vehicle into her path.
Blossom's Honda Civic was totaled as a result of the crash. Her then-unborn child was unharmed.
"I slammed on my brakes. I could feel the car spinning out, and it was just pure terror," Blossom said. "Once I got out of the car I collapsed."
The Florida Highway Patrol said troopers in Miami-Dade County have been called to 12,192 crashes in the express lanes in the past three years. These incidents resulted in five fatalities and 58 crashes involving injury.
Several of those crashes involved motorists crossing over the orange plastic poles that are supposed to separate the express lanes from the general-purpose lanes.
Local 10 News discovered many drivers are ignoring the poles and driving right over them.
In October, Coconut Grove artist Cynthia Fleishmann was riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the express lanes when a driver crossed over the orange poles, causing a collision.
Fleishmann lost her left leg in the crash and said the poles need to be removed.
"They are a false sense of security," Fleishmann said. "You know you are not supposed to cross them. There shouldn't even be the express lane. There is this greed for money on the highway."
The express lanes have also created a serious problem for troopers trying to enforce the law.
When the FDOT reconfigured I-95 to add express lanes, they shrunk the shoulder. Troopers said there is very little room to pull someone over.
"Making a traffic stop out here, for me and for every other officer, in my opinion, I think it is dangerous," Trooper Joe Sanchez said.
Kaire said the FDOT spends $1 million a year replacing damaged and missing plastic poles.
The FDOT is surprised by the number of people who cross over the orange poles.
"I think a lot of people are surprised that someone would actually take the chance," 95 Express spokeswoman Tish Burgher.
The FDOT has hired more troopers to deal with bad behavior in the express lanes.
Burgher said there is no room for a permanent wall on I-95, and that the orange plastic poles work.
"It's a physical barrier designed to keep people from going back and forth, so a physical barrier should be enough for a motorist to understand," Burgher said.
Burgher doesn't think safety was compromised when the express lanes were created.
"Right now there are no plans to change the plastic poles on 95," Burgeher added.
Sanchez said motorists should avoid driving directly next to plastic poles.
"You never know when someone is going to cross over," he said.
To sign the petition, click here.
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