Crosswalk concerns: Who is to blame?

Brea Joyner, [email protected]

After SGA implemented more crosswalks being added during last year’s Lunch with the President, we reported that painted crosswalks were added in front of the Activity Center and the International House.

For senior political science major Mary Solieau, this issue struck a nerve her freshman year. Solieau was walking in front of Hemphill Hall, which does not usually have a lot of foot-traffic.

As she crossed a white Tahoe swiped her from behind, hitting her shoulder and ripping her backpack. Luckily, Solieau walked away fine, but she could never report the incident to the police.

“I had no license plate number. I couldn’t see who was driving it,” Solieau said.

“I had so little to go off of, and I had a test. So I just went to class.”

Solieau is one of the 16 concerned students who opened up to the Hawkeye about their frustrating or near death experiences as pedestrians on campus.

According to a recent study of the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian traffic fatalities are on the rise. The 2015 study ranks Louisiana number six in the nation with a 2 percent per 100,000 fatality rate.

The number may seem small, but this rate brings ULM students to a red light: Pedestrian safety. In a recent poll and open discussion with students via Facebook, it was discovered that students still feel unsafe on crosswalks. The poll showed that out of over 300 students who participated in the survey, about 200 students have almost been hit by a car while using the crosswalk, while over 90 students have almost hit someone who was using the crosswalk.

While the student-pedestrians seem to think that the drivers may seem distracted or inconsiderate, the students behind the wheel find that some pedestrians really grind their gears.  In senior Mollie Yorks’ case, drivers are not the only ones being distracted by their cell phones.

The social science major was hit by someone—while she was parked at a stop sign.

“This girl was staring at her phone while she was walking across the street. She walked directly into my car because she didn’t look up once,” Yorks said.

“The best part of the story is that she then proceeded to yell at me because she walked into my car.”

Who is responsible? How can this issue be solved?

Assistant Police Director Mark Johnson did not take sides of pedestrian versus driver.

Johnson says that the biggest issue is being distracted by electronics.

“The challenge is…to be aware of the safety issues of using these devices while operating motor vehicles or while walking across roadways,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said that ULM PD has patrol units patrol the crosswalk to “remind drivers and pedestrians to obey traffic and safety laws.”

Even though ULM has not had any recently reported pedestrian accidents, Johnson says the department encourages safe usage of crosswalks, and even safety suggestions from students, faculty and staff.

Sophomore pre-pharmacy major Tiona Harris thinks that if there was extra surveillance around, maybe drivers would comply to the road rules—especially if a penalty is involved.

“If there were cameras at the crosswalks…I think drivers would be more careful so that they wouldn’t get ticketed,” Harris said.

“Everybody knows they don’t want a ULMPD ticket. Too expensive!”

While more crosswalks, surveillance cameras, and warning lights could be added to enhance the pedestrian and cyclists’ safety, those additions would not implement change. The true change is a matter of respect.

“Individual responsibility…to respect the law and safety of other students is an individual choice,” Johnson said.