Crosswalk Safety at WC

By Molly Igoe

Elm Staff Writer

On Wednesday, March 25 around midday, a Washington College student was hit by a car while crossing the crosswalk at the intersection of Washington and Campus Avenues. She suffered minor injuries in what could have been a serious accident.

Staff at WC had a visceral reaction to the event because of previous incidents where students were killed while in a crosswalk. Many weighed in through email following the accident at WC.

Gerald Roderick, director of Public Safety at the College, mentioned the death of Brittany Paige in his email to students and faculty on March 26. She was a 19 year-old student who attended Wesley College in Dover, Del. and was killed while jogging across the street on March 17.

Pedestrian incidents like this remind us of the true purpose of crosswalks. But what happens if a crosswalk does not prevent an accident, like in the case of a WC student hit last month?

Unfortunately, not all drivers are paying attention at crosswalks, which puts more pedestrians in danger. Roderick said, “When you are crossing the street, take time to be sure it’s safe to cross.” This may sound like common sense, but it is easy to forget that there is potential danger even within a “safe” crosswalk.

Recent incidents have sparked a conversation in the Washington College community about the safety of students crossing Washington Ave and other busy streets in Chestertown.

Business management Professor Michael Harvey heard about the incident from the email sent out by Roderick the day after it happened. A few days later he sent out an email to faculty and students suggesting the use of speed bumps with flashers embedded in them to alert drivers to pedestrians. Along with Harvey, many other faculty members weighed in on the incident.

Dr. Harvey said, “Distracted driving is something traffic planners need to design for, and motion-activated flashing lights would alert drivers at night of pedestrians in the road.” These motion-activated flashers might not be a viable option for the College, but there are alternative sources to increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks on and off campus.

Roderick said, “We have started coming up with a plan with Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Xavier Cole about how to improve crosswalk safety. The project is budget-driven, but we are looking at putting a traffic sign with flashing lights and a pedestrian crossing sign at the corner of Washington and Campus Avenue.”

Roderick said, “The crosswalk at Washington and Campus Avenues is controlled, but it is a busy four-way intersection, which means that many drivers are not going to pay as much attention to pedestrians. This crosswalk is also used by most faculty and a lot of students, so improving safer crossing there is a priority.”

Dr. Harvey said, “We have to focus in on all the crosswalks on campus, like the ones near Hodson and the Casey Academic Center, not just the one on 213.” Roderick reiterated this, saying the plan for safer crosswalks involves improving signage and road markings on all the crosswalks on campus.

An article written in the Chestertown Spy on April 7 by James Dissette covered a Chestertown Council meeting regarding traffic problems that was held on Monday, April 6. David Bowering, a spokesman for the Washington Avenue Neighborhood Association, presented his interpretation of the State Highway Administration’s study of traffic on Washington Avenue to the town council on April 6.

The study found that by 2030, 22,000 vehicles, including 1,500 heavy trucks will use Washington Avenue, or Route 213. Bowering said the data collected needed to be analyzed more to identify the magnitude of the traffic problem.

The council found that the author of the report minimized the amount of heavy truck traffic on 213, and criticized the state policy that only allows speed cameras to be used near public schools, not at the College.

Dr. Harvey said, “The College needs to invest in student safety, and do it soon, to prevent another incident involving a student.” Roderick agreed, saying that student safety is the most important thing to consider.

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