Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racing on Bayshore Boulevard. Lowering the speed limit on Bayshore and installing new crosswalks and other measures should make the popular boulevard safer for pedestrians and motorists alike. But two lives are gone and three families are devastated by what authorities describe as reckless, macho antics. And how exactly do you stop that?
Jessica Raubenolt took her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, on a stroll along Bayshore just before noon Wednesday. About the same time, witnesses said, two high school classmates who graduated this week, Cameron Herrin, 18, and John Alexander Barrineau, 17, raced each other as they headed north on Bayshore. Raubenolt was pushing Lillia across the roadway when they were struck by a 2018 Mustang with Herrin at the wheel, police said. Raubenolt was pronounced dead soon afterward, and Lillia died Thursday at Tampa General Hospital.
City officials, in responding to the tragedy Thursday, advanced a plan to reduce the speed limit on Bayshore to 35 mph, 5 mph lower than the previous limit. The city had planned to lower the speed limit in October, as part of a broader move to make Bayshore safer, but will now expedite those improvements. Lanes will be narrowed from 12 feet to 10 feet to reduce speeds, and the city will install at least three pedestrian crosswalks with flashing beacons along the 4.5-mile route that is hugely popular with runners, cyclists and walkers.
These are sensible changes that strike a better balance for a boulevard that long has had competing uses. Bayshore is a vital thoroughfare for thousands of people who drive to and from work every day. It also is Tampaís prettiest boulevard, famed for its sweeping water views, public art and manicured landscaping. Crossing Bayshore is dangerous; while water-side parking exists on either end, the vast number of pedestrians and bicyclists who use it cross the roadway from the land side. And the existing crosswalks are few and far between. The cityís plan will provide safer, convenient access for pedestrians without seriously impacting traffic flow or reducing Bayshoreís utility.
But the best-laid plans are no match for recklessness. There are already laws against speeding and racing; reducing the speed limit to 35 mph wonít do much to slow drivers who disregarded 40 mph. Herrin and Barrineau each face two counts of vehicular homicide and street racing. Herrinís older brother, Tristan, 20, a passenger in his car, faces a misdemeanor charge of racing.
A husband lost his wife and daughter. Three young men who have their full lives before them and who havenít been in trouble before now face the demands of the criminal justice system. And three families will be forever affected. If only there was a law that could reach out and shake sense into people before tragedy strikes. Now that would be an effective response.