Following two reported car-pedestrian accidents on campus already this semester, students and faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh held a safety forum recently to delve into where the dangerous intersections are and why pedestrians are at risk.
Several students are patrolling crosswalks and sidewalks across the Plattsburgh State campus, promoting a stop, look and wave campaign to improve pedestrian safety.
A recent safety forum raised numerous issues such as enhanced awareness, road design and speed limits.
Sophomore nursing student Kyrsten Lyman began the meeting recounting her experience crossing Broad Street early in her freshman year. “It was three weeks into my freshman year. We had the cross symbol like all the cars were stopped. All the cars are waving us on. I remember this white car and this girl looking down at her lap. I remember thinking is this car going to hit me? And it did. I went through the windshield, rolled off the hood of the car, hit the pavement. I had a shattered shoulder. I pulled a ligament in my thumb, broke my thumb. I had a closed head injury and a black eye.”
The collision has delayed Lyman’s academic career a year.
Junior Lauren Barnes is one of the students who began researching pedestrian problems last spring and is now implementing safety goals. “With my friends and some of the people that we've tried reaching out to one of the first things you get is like someone laughing at you. But then you'll say hey did you know two students have been hit on this campus this semester? And that's when you can really get their attention because they're very unaware. If even you heard stop, look and wave earlier that day you might have rolled your eyes and walked away but when you're crossing a street you're going to subconsciously think a little more about the proper behavior. And that's why we really just want to keep blasting our message and keep reaching as many students as we can especially the incoming students who haven't really established walking behaviors yet.”
University Police Chief Jerry Lottie says a three-prong approach has been successful in improving traffic and pedestrian safety on campus. “You've seen the raised crosswalks with the flashing lights, the signage and then the other portion of that is the enforcement particularly for drivers that are distracted. It's very concerning to have a driver where there's heavy pedestrian congestion and to be using a cell phone or not paying attention to what they're doing.”
Lottie was asked if pedestrians always have right of way. "If they’re in the crosswalk they have right-of-way and cars are supposed to yield or stop to allow the pedestrian to cross. However a pedestrian cannot or is not supposed to step out into the street so quickly that a vehicle can’t stop."
The student pedestrian safety team has discovered a number of problems including night and sunset blindness and a false sense of security in crosswalks. There are also several myths they are working to dispel. Chief Lottie noted the most popular. “On campus there is an urban legend that if you get hit in the cross walk your tuition is paid. People honestly believe that. We had somebody this week come to University Police and say I almost was hit in the crosswalk, how do I get my tuition paid?”
Dr. J.W. Wylie: “I'll push my son into the crosswalk!” (laughter)
Another fallacy the safety group has heard is that if a pedestrian is looking down at a cell phone a driver has to stop. Panelists at the forum noted that they don’t.