A student’s injury last week has caused SIU’s Department of Public Safety to become more concerned about student crosswalk safety.
A female pedestrian was hit by a car in the crosswalk near the Recreation Center Tuesday. Although pedestrians have the right-of-way, statistics gathered by the Wellness Center show students often don’t practice crosswalk safety.
Because of the danger crosswalks pose, Russell Thomas, all-hazards preparedness resource coordinator for DPS, said the department wants students to be more cautious.
“There hasn’t been a large number of incidents (in my time), but when it happens it makes a large impact,” Thomas said. “Crosswalks can be safe if you use common sense.”
Thomas said pedestrians should look both ways before using crosswalks, make eye contact with the driver of any oncoming vehicle and refrain from texting or wearing headphones while crossing. He said students need to learn more about crosswalk safety and use good judgment when crossing the street.
Three SIU students conducted a study in 2009 for the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance — a group that researches issues surrounding healthy lifestyles — on crosswalk safety as a means to prevent future accidents. The students put up cameras at three different locations with two at crosswalks. One crosswalk location showed 101 of 125 pedestrians used the walkway and did not slow down, while the location without a crosswalk showed that all 86 pedestrians stopped and looked both ways before crossing.
Seven people were almost hit by a vehicle during the surveillance.
The study also showed that only 11 of the 300 people who used the second marked crossway used the crosswalk button. The data concluded pedestrians had a false sense of security, a lack of knowledge for crosswalk laws and a lack of concern for crosswalk incidents.
The study prompted the Wellness Center to form a crosswalk safety committee in 2010 to look at risks associated with crosswalk use on and around campus. Data gathered by the center from 2011 and 2012 showed more than 13,600 students used seven highly populated crosswalks between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Of these students, 20 percent were distracted by headphone, cell phone and iPod use.
Of the 580 students who used bicycles and skateboards through the crosswalks, 97 percent did not comply with crosswalk laws, according to the data.
To combat this, the committee implemented strategies such as handing out glowsticks at a university event to encourage students to remain visible when crossing the street. Saluki Project Ignition, a Registered Student Organization, also handed out information about safe crosswalk behaviors, and the university placed more lighting and visibility on Wall Street near University Hall to increase driver’s ability to see crosswalk users.
The committee also created a new recommended practice supported by the Mass Transit Advisory Board, which asked bus stops to be relocated 50 inches beyond crosswalks to improve visibility.
Illinois Department of Transportation statistics show more than 6,000 people are hit by vehicles each year with around 170 people killed and 1,000 seriously injured.
A study conducted by the San Diego Personal Injury Attorneys in February showed six pedestrian accidents occurred in marked crosswalks for every one accident in unmarked crossways. The study further stated that marked crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security, and people should act defensively when crossing the road, even at crosswalks.
Some students say they are not worried about their safety in crosswalks.
Christopher Hicks, a senior from Sawyerville studying criminology and criminal justice, said he uses the crosswalks around campus daily.
“Students should pay more attention to their surroundings and stop using their phones in the crosswalk,” Hicks said.
He said he has never had an incident occur at a crosswalk, and he feels safe using them.
Ibrahim Hattan, a senior from Saudi Arabia studying radiologic sciences, drives to campus daily and said he never encounters problems. Hattan said he has never come close to hitting a student on the crosswalks and thinks the driver holds more responsibility than the pedestrian. He said he thinks the crosswalks are safe and well-constructed for walking students.
Illinois traffic law states when traffic control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
The law also states drivers shall yield right-of-way to pedestrians whenever stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections.