Crosswalks vital for campus safety after accidents

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GRAPHIC BY SARAH BRADY / THE FLAT HAT

All crosswalks should have lights, especially those on a college campus, and the College of William and Mary’s campus is no exception. Yet, the College is severely lacking in this regard. If nothing else, I can at least feel secure when I go to get my weekly Chick-fil-A, as the crosswalk on Richmond Road between Blow Memorial Hall and Tribe Square is one of the few on campus accompanied by warning lights.

The rest of the time, I simply must hope that cars notice me trying to quickly scurry across the street. At night, I can only hope that they see a dark blob ahead that vaguely resembles a human.

While it is ultimately up to the driver to pay attention and stop in time, lights provide advance warning that something is going on ahead that requires caution. With two accidents involving a car hitting a pedestrian occurring in the past month, I think it is certainly time to reevaluate the safety of crosswalks across campus. The scariest part about these scenarios is that I was not at all surprised when I heard about the incidents, and I doubt others were either. In fact, I was more surprised that these incidents had not happened sooner.

Most major cities or areas with large pedestrian flow, like college campuses, have traffic lights directing pedestrians or warning lights at all intersections. At the College, the majority of crosswalks can be found across busy roads with no traffic lights or even stop signs to control traffic flow. Rather, pedestrians are on their own, having to wait for an opening or, more often, make their own opening and hope that the cars react in time. The more time that passes, the more complacent we become.

We stop taking a minute to look both ways as we are in a hurry to pick up lunch from Marketplace and say “hi” to Christian before class. I have even heard many people declare that they do not wait for cars to stop because, “if I get hit, then I can sue.”

That may be true, but it does not comfort me much. Unlike Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from “Parks and Recreation,” I would rather not make my money the old-fashioned way.
However, I do sometimes take more risk than maybe I should. After only about 10 seconds, I become sick of waiting and decide that if I take one step into the road and make aggressive eye contact with the drivers, I will then be OK to cross. The problem is that they might not get the message, or even worse, they might not see it.

Flashing lights, however, would not be missed. Not only do they warn cars, but pushing the button to turn on the lights forces pedestrians to slow down and take note of their surroundings, giving them the assurance that the next couple cars to pass through will surely stop. While accidents can still happen at any time, lights take out some of the guesswork and help ensure safety for both cars and pedestrians.

Therefore, more crosswalks across the College’s campus should be equipped with warning lights, particularly the ones at busier crossings on Richmond and Jamestown Road.

Email Caroline Wall at cewall01@email.wm.edu