Strolling by the brick buildings and looming trees, one needs only to observe the crosswalks at ten feet intervals, the lethargic students weighed down by backpacks crossing them and the occasional biker hastily pedaling across the road to realize that Williamsburg is home to a college campus. It is a pedestrian-heavy environment full of students who are often too distracted to be paying attention to the roads they cross. The driving rules of such a place should be simple: drive slowly, drive carefully, and don’t expect to get anywhere quickly.
However, last week a biker was hit by a car at Confusion Corner. Though this fortunately did not result in a serious injury, the most shocking aspect of this incident is that it did not come as a great shock at all. Accidents of this sort seem almost inevitable. Despite the fact that this is a college campus and is therefore filled with absentminded pedestrians, reckless and impatient drivers flood the streets. Students are honked at if they take too long to cross the street while other drivers glide over crosswalks while looking down at their cellphones instead of at the road. Stop signs are taken as mild suggestions rather than imperative road signs. Students have to risk their lives every time they want to brave Confusion Corner and enter Colonial Williamsburg. It makes the good old days of horse-drawn carriages seem all the more blissful. (Thomas Jefferson never had to deal with this.)
Considering there are several student dorms that are a hazardous street away from the rest of campus, reckless driving poses a major issue. Many students are crossing streets multiple times a day while drivers cruise as casually as if they were on a highway. Students may joke that an upcoming paper or exam makes the prospect of getting hit by a car seem pleasant, but the reality is that the danger provided by reckless driving is an unwelcome part of college life. Students should never have to fear for their safety just because they want to grab some food or return to their dorms.
Nearby drivers jeopardizing safety is not an issue unique to the College of William and Mary. Last year, a Virginia Tech student was killed after being hit by a car while biking around campus. Pedestrian safety on college campuses is becoming an increasingly serious issue, and both drivers and students alike need to take precautions to avoid adding the College’s name to a list of statistics.
One possible solution to this problem is adding speed bumps in order to slow drivers and warn them of the type of environment in which they are driving. Although speed bumps may arouse complaints due to the added noise they create and the damage they could have on older cars, they are effective in slowing cars. Lighted crosswalks could also be installed to prevent accidents in the dark. By improving street safety features, the College would put its students in a more secure situation.
An undeniable key to solving this issue is increased awareness. Drivers, whether they be townies, tourists or even students, need to be more aware of their surroundings. Pedestrians should likewise never assume that a driver is paying attention or will stop for them. Getting to class on time is not worth a life-changing or life-ending incident. It should be acknowledged that the seemingly-idyllic college campus is as a place of possible danger. Only through this realization can the College truly become safer.
For now, the bikers and walkers will continue to put their safety on their line. However, hopefully there will be a day when “the other side of their road” is an accessible part of campus.
Email Gwen Sachs at firstname.lastname@example.org