Massachusetts Daily Collegian

After Sun. morning accident, students react to cross-walking safety

By Steffi Porter

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Evan Sahagian/Collegian

Evan Sahagian/Collegian

After University of Massachusetts student Brandon Wall was hit by a car on North Pleasant Street over the weekend, some students have begun to fear that frequent technology use, poorly lit crosswalks and consumption of alcohol on campus could make crossing the street a hazardous venture.

UMass junior Lizzie Lenson said she heard about the incident and commented that it was “awful.” Lenson, who grew up in the Amherst area, said she has been hearing about accidents involving pedestrians for a while, including someone she knew six years ago who was struck by a moving vehicle in downtown Amherst.

“It seems like it happens more than it should, especially to people on bicycles,” said Lenson. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me [that accidents like this happen], but it shouldn’t be happening.”

Wall, 20, was transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield following being struck by a car at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday morning, according to Hunter Guiles, an Amherst Police Department officer. A spokesperson for the hospital said yesterday that he was in good condition.

The Amherst Police Department and UMass Police Department could not be reached for comment by publication last night.

Lenson said that when crossing the street, she tries to poke her head out and make it plain to drivers that she is there before crossing, even at crosswalks.

Senior Max Curran is one of several students who said that technology serves as an unnecessary distraction for UMass students and can lead to further accidents.

“I think both pedestrians and drivers are often distracted,” said Curran. “People crossing the streets have music playing or they’re on their phones or both. Drivers always have music playing. There are distractions on both sides.”

The issue of driver distractions involving technology has attracted national attention.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nation-wide ban on the use of portable electronic devices while driving in December 2011, according to an NTSB press release.

NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart testified at a Feb. 13 New York Senate hearing on distracted driving, according to a press release by New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo Jr.

Curran said crosswalks are not well-lit enough at night. He said it is difficult to drive through them because people can be difficult to see within crosswalks in the darkness. He also noted that an abundance of crosswalks makes drivers take them less seriously, and that at times, he finds it difficult to be cautious at each crosswalk.

“It would be better if there were just a few [crosswalks] that were really well-lit and you knew where they were instead of one every five feet,” said Curran.

The “Turn off. Tune In. Watch Out” campaign, according to an article published on MassLive.com in 2010, is one of the efforts UMPD has made in order to increase pedestrian safety. It was started to encourage students to cross the streets at sidewalks, make eye-contact with drivers before crossing and walk on the sidewalk. Pedestrians were also told that having the right of way under Massachusetts State Law “doesn’t protect them from careless drivers,” according to MassLive.com.

UMPD launched the pedestrian safety campaign, handing out bookmarks and putting up posters around campus which depicted a student texting while driving and one wearing earphones while crossing the street, according to the MassLive.com article. The caption at the bottom read “R U Ready 2 Stop?”

Between four and eight accidents involving pedestrians occur each year, according to UMass Police Chief Johnny Whitehead in the MassLive.com article.

Senior Meghan Goodine, who tends to feel safe when crossing the streets on campus, said that while some areas of campus are not very well-lit, alcohol and partying play large roles in decreasing pedestrian safety.

“I think there are a lot of people who are partying and drinking, and they just don’t look before they cross the street,” said Goodine. “It’s hard to say that it would be the driver’s fault entirely, especially knowing UMass’s history of drunken belligerence on the weekends.”

UMass senior Emily Green said most drivers stop for pedestrians, and said that as a driver, when she needs to “stop short” for a pedestrian, it is “because the pedestrian isn’t being mindful of traffic.”

“Even though they have the right of way, sometimes they don’t make smart choices,” said Green. “It’s a lot easier for a person to stop than a car to stop. If you step out in front of a car that’s clearly too close, you’re going to get hit. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.”

Green said that the University makes the best effort they can in keeping students safe from accidents by making public service announcements but stated her belief that most students do not pay attention to them.

Freshman Greg Clarkin said that the University and UMPD do a thorough job of “enforcing pedestrian laws.”

“I think most people know to look both ways when they cross the street. I’d say [the problem is] mostly distractions. Either the driver going too fast or not paying attention, or it’s a pedestrian not looking both ways.”

The UMPD website offers a page of information about staying safe as a pedestrian, suggesting that people “dress to be seen” and stay safe while crossing the street.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected]

 

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