TAMPA (FOX 13) -
Dozens of Middleton High School students who live along a busy stretch of Hillsborough Avenue took advantage of a new shuttle bus Monday offered by Hillsborough County Schools.
Seventeen students took the shuttle across the busy street on the way to school, while 14 used it at the end of the day.
The district launched the program to help get students at Meridian Pointe Apartments across the road safely following the death of Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, 15, last month while she walked to school. Her sister was also injured in the accident.
"Hillsborough Avenue is a State Road. It is extremely busy and early in the morning and late at night when kids are coming home it can be extremely dangerous," said Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who went to the shuttle stop in the morning. "If the students are using the bus then we'll know that this was a good move bringing safety to our students."
Tampa Police have also been cracking down on jaywalkers. Officers have issued about three dozen warnings in the last two weeks.
"It's everybody. It's not just high school kids. It's everyone from eight-year-olds to 70 -year-olds," said Sgt. Carl Giguere.
Giguere said a major problem with enforcement is the lack of tight jaywalking laws; it's only considered jaywalking if a person causes a vehicle to stop, swerve or slow down.
Although it might not be illegal, Giguere said it's never safe.
"You're betting your life when you try to cross the road outside that crosswalk," he said.
FOX 13 saw dozens of people darting across the road throughout the day and the most common reason given: convenience.
"Because the bus stop is right there," said Achile Joseph, a Hillsborough High School student. "If I get off at the bus stop instead of walking back that way...it would pretty much be a waste of time."
"That's why all these kids walk from across the road instead of starting from all the way down there because you'll be late for school," said Rashad Williams, a student at Middleton High School, adding he knows people who took the shuttle. "A couple people took it but most people
prefer walking across the street because it's faster."
But one freshman at Middleton said his parents set new rules after the deadly accident.
"When that happened, my mom told me to come and wait on her at the plaza [shopping center across the street] so I won't have and cross the street right here so I won't get hurt," said Dwayne Carter.
The plan is to install a traffic light at the entrance Meridian Pointe Apartments on Hillsborough Avenue, but that will likely take 16 months.
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