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11-Year-Old Gathers Signatures to Improve Safety on Highway 49

NEVADA COUNTY -- Students in a Bear River government class gave 11-year-old Jolie Allen a round of applause after she received hundreds of signatures asking for safety revisions on Highway 49 where two students were killed last December.

Allen started the petition drive two weeks ago after learning about the deaths of popular students Jude Douden and Joseph Rantz. Bear River students were ready to help collect petitions after a long grieving period.

"It's awesome that someone as young as her has taken it under her own hands to get something going and get a change started," said student body President Amanda Potts.

A Highway 49 safety meeting will be held at the high school Tuesday at 7 p.m. with elected officials, Caltrans and CHP representatives expected to attend. That's when around 3,000 signatures will be presented.

Allen got plenty of help from her dad and 13-year-old brother as well as community members in creating a Fix49 website where additional petitions can be signed.

Among the 19,000 page visits were some who commented that a proposed safety land barrier was not workable, Some also said the accident was caused by one of the teen drivers who drove with excessive speed in wet conditions.

But Jolie's dad Scott Allen said it's important that all safety issues are examined.

"That's part of the campaign, is to have drivers' take responsibility to stay off their cell phones, wear their seat belts, drive the speed limit," the Scott Allen.

As for students, many who went to elementary school with the victims, gathering signatures on campus and among parents and neighbors came easy.

"People are so open to it, we're really passionate about it and we really want to see Highway 49 fixed," said signature gatherer and senior Carlyn Guerrero.

School Activity Director Matt McDonald said students were "blown away" when Jolie approached them with her project.

He said the campaign got results even before signatures are turned in.

"Kids are talking about texting and driving and distracted driving and that they're doing safe things on the highway," said McDonald.

Jolie admits it was tough getting signatures from fellow classmates who don't drive or think about highway safety. But she's glad Bear River students came through by gathering around 1,000 signatures.

"I'm not doing this for myself or my family, I'm doing it for the community," said Jolie Allen.