If you stand on the corner of Rosedale Avenue and S. High Street during class change time, you will notice a basic fact: people control traffic. As students, the law seems to be “if someone else is crossing, so can I.” However, there are numerous problems with this.First, if you have ever sat in a car on Rosedale Avenue trying to turn onto High Street for more than 10 minutes, you know that traffic flow can be all but stopped at times. Second, people assume cars are going to stop. Sometimes, they do not.
On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic crash every 111 minutes. A bystander is injured by traffic every eight minutes. That adds up to over 65,000 injured and almost 5,000 deaths every year.
When a traffic signal is green in the direction that you want to walk, it is not the same as getting a “walk” signal. True, often times one person can safely cross. That does not mean that 20 people can. Many cars are trying to turn, and once one student begins to cross, everyone crosses.
What people need to do is press the walk button and wait. The crossing signal at this intersection stops all other traffic, giving students ample time to safely cross without traffic trying to turn.
Pressing the walk button is similar to waiting for an elevator. When pushing the button for an elevator, you expect to wait until the elevator gets to the floor you are on before the doors open. When you press the walk button, do not cross just because there are no cars in the area, instead wait.
How many times have you dangerously crossed one part of the street and stood waiting on the next corner, only to find that the signal turns to walk after you have blocked traffic by crossing? How many times have you been crossing the street and a car needs to turn, so you quickly jog across the street to get out of the way?
Pedestrians have the right-of-way in an intersection when in the crosswalk, but that does not mean they can step out in front of traffic. If they wait for the walk signal to cross any part of the intersection, safety will be increased, traffic will flow better and yes, you can still get to class on time.
That would help improve the traffic situation at that intersection, but what about in other locations? The July 2004 Status Report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that roughly 40 percent of pedestrian accidents occur at intersections. That leaves 60 percent occurring in other locations.
Our campus has a few crosswalks that are not located at intersections. The most noticeable is located outside of the Sykes Student Union building. Why is that crosswalk so noticeable? Probably because the university invested the capital to install flashing signs, more noticeable markings, and other changes to make the crosswalk stand out.
Another key crosswalk, located past the intersection of Linden Street and High Street, is across the street from the Philips Memorial building, which contains the Emily K. Asplundh Concert Hall. Residents of Walnut Street and the surrounding area, who walk to campus, use this crosswalk frequently.
However, the Philips crosswalk does not contain a flashing sign or any other highly visible markings. There is merely a marking on the street. And according to the IIHS, “adding crosswalk markings at locations without traffic signals doesn’t help.”
The crosswalk is located immediately after the Linden intersection, so many motorists simply miss the crosswalk altogether. There is actually data to suggest that these types of crosswalks increase risks for pedestrians by creating a false sense of security.
A group of students dedicated to increasing pedestrian safety by raising awareness of potential pedestrian dangers and further prevent future injuries has formed, working under the name the West Chester Pedestrian Safety Initiative.
After studying the trends of student pedestrians, meeting with public safety and the borough of West Chester, and researching national statistics, it is the recommendation of the WCPSI that a crosswalk similar to the one located at Sykes be built at the current Philips location. This would greatly increase safety in that area.
For a safer crosswalk to be built, the university needs to see the support of the student and faculty body in favor of such an endeavor. A petition has been created on the group’s website, wcpsi.org. The group hopes to collect 1,000 signatures to show that the new crosswalk would be an important fixture at WCU.
You can make a personal difference by simply looking both ways, being alert and waiting to for crossing signals. If you would like to make a larger impact, sign the petition and get involved. If we all make an effort to increase our safety consciousness, we can put an end to the multitudes of injures that occur on or around campus each year.
Hopefully the next time you are standing on the corner watching a group of students at an intersection, you will see everyone standing with you, waiting patiently for the little white icon to say it’s safe to cross.
For more information, and to sign the petition, please visit http://www.wcpsi.org.
Ryan Benton is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RPBenton@gmail.com.