City commissioner calls for Mayport Road speed limit reduction

Push for change comes weeks after 12-year-old hit, killed in same area

MAYPORT, Fla. – An Atlantic Beach city commissioner is making an effort to have the speed limit reduced on Mayport Road just two weeks after a 12-year-old boy was hit and killed by an SUV in the same area. 

Hunter Cope was struck March 6 at the intersection of Wonderwood Connector and A1A while walking to Mayport Middle School, police said.

According to police, the vehicle continued through a yellow light at the intersection about 8:30 a.m., hitting Cope, who was walking with five other children.

"It's been the worst time of my life," said Crystal Clark, Hunter's mother. "We moved so that I wouldn't have to pass it. It's terrible for me to have to go through that intersection."

On top of grieving, Clark has been thinking of measures to keep other students who walk to school safe, and now city leaders are taking notice.

"Maybe have a light there or a cop there -- I think that would be OK," Clark said. 

Atlantic Beach City Commissioner Jimmy Hill is asking how many tragedies have to happen for something to change.

"It's always been a very busy area," Hill said. "It's becoming much more residential, but it's conflicting with the speed limit because this road originally is 45 mph."

Many drivers hit speeds of 55 mph and higher on Mayport Road, according to Hill. And since so many children walk along that road, he's making another push to lower the speed limit.

"You can only see so many things happen before you have to act. This isn't the first time I've pressed for this. I've pressed for this on several occasions," Hill said. "The community is just as tired as I am of seeing these tragedies."

He said the style of the road has increased the likelihood of a crash, which is why he's looking to the Florida Department of Transportation to have the final say.  

"It is not in the city of Atlantic Beach's jurisdiction to change (the) speed limit on a state road. That's not a city road. We take it to the DOT and the DOT has to evaluate it and prove their interaction with us as a community and the information we give them and their studies. We have to get them to decide it's a good idea too," Hill said. 

Clark said that she adamantly agrees with that idea.

"That sounds like a step in the right direction," Clark said. "If they lower the speed limit, have a cop sitting out there -- anything to save another child's life." 

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detectives are still investigating the March 6 crash and haven’t charged the driver of the SUV that hit Hunter. But the crash report, which News4Jax obtained, said Hunter was in the crosswalk and that officers believe the driver, 37-year-old Kelley Permenter, was under the influence of alcohol.