Recent accidents cause concern for student safety

By on September 29, 2008

By Emory Williamson

Walking to his 9 a.m. international relations class, Sean Spille wasn’t expecting anything more than just the average morning lecture.
Spille, a sophomore political science major, was in for a rude early hour awakening.
As he reached a crosswalk for Third Street, Spille was waved to walk across by an individual in a white truck. Once he began crossing, an aqua colored car ran into him, causing him to flip up onto the car’s windshield and off onto the road.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Spille concerning the Sept. 10 incident. “I’m not sure how any person paying attention wouldn’t have seen a pedestrian crossing the street.”
Spille, however, isn’t alone with his incident.
According to a university police report, Xioa Wang was crossing the street near the corner of Floyd and Warnock streets last Tuesday when she was struck by a vehicle that had been rear-ended by a truck. Wang, a 30 year old Louisville resident, as well as the others involved in the accident, was unavailable for comment.
Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Brown said that the accident on Tuesday is currently being investigation by University Police.
In late June, Riley Jane Lawrence, 4, and Claudia Faye Wadlington, 5, were killed at the same intersection, following a high-speed police chase.
Spille, who suffered minor injures from his accident,  is still catching up with his coursework and was billed nearly $2,500 for his brief stay at the hospital. Spille is still struggling through the accident’s aftershock.
“The whole situation is extremely stressful,” said Spille, who added that he has difficulty driving in areas that have heavy pedestrian traffic because he’s afraid he might hit them. “My friends have told me that I appear weary and I freak out more when I’m around the streets.”
Brown said he understands the students’ concerns, but said the likelihood of accidents such as these occurring is fairly slim.
“From time to time we do have accidents like this around campus,” he said. “A lot of times folks don’t use crosswalks and they just don’t follow traffic rules.”
Brown attributed most of the accidents to driver and pedestrian negligence. He said that safety measures such as the use of cameras and more patrolmen are in place in order to help protect the streets surrounding Belknap campus. However, Brown said the camera at the corner of Warnock and Floyd is a panning camera and isn’t always filming the roadway.
Brown also suggested that students, many who are unfamiliar with busy urban intersections, receive instruction on how to be safe around campus roadways.
With the largest incoming freshman class and a growing residential life on campus, Mike Mardis, Dean of Students at U of L, said the university is planning to initiate some of these programs on such occasions as future freshmen orientations.
Although the two accidents that occurred this year didn’t involve freshman, Mardis said it is important for students to be cautious with the many busy intersections that surround campus. He added that roadway safety training, which has yet to be a part of previous freshman orientations, would be good for incoming students.
“You do have to be careful in and around campus and you hope students will be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “But I think it’s beneficial to give them the additional information.”
Ronald Turley, a public affairs officer for the Kentucky State Police, believes that education is key avoiding incidents such as Spille’s.
“We have to start educating not just the students, but the public as well,” said Turley. “And that’s just the first step in getting people to comply and learn from past experiences so we can avoid that.”
Turley, who is stationed in Frankfort, said busy intersections aren’t common in his area and that he travels through many rural areas across the state. However, he said negligent driving and roadway safety is an issue that affects everyone.
“It is a common sense thing, but we get in such a hurry and we have a divided attention,” Turley said. “Accidents happen when we multi-task and people get in such a hurry that they assume too much and they just forget to look at the signs.”
According to Turley, practices such as leaving early enough to avoid rushing, looking both ways at busy intersections – even checking right away rules – and to make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians are a good ways of avoiding accidents.
Turley said that the first few weeks of school are typically the most dangerous and he suggested placing additional cameras, officers and crosswalk signs in busy intersections in order to avoid potential accidents.
“When school gets back in session, it appears to be a problem because drivers don’t yield and pedestrians don’t adhere to the street signs,” he said.
Student Government Association President Rudy Spencer said he doesn’t think additional cameras will necessarily help in these situations, but he added that perhaps additional crosswalk signs, voice over walk signs and fencing could help with roadway safety.
However, Spencer said he didn’t think SGA could have much effect on roadway safety.
“If students want some sort of program then by all means Student Government will facilitate something like [roadway safety training],” Spencer said. “But I don’t think it’s that pressing of an issue.”

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