Driving safety: An increasing pedestrian concern


Brynn Lundy/The Lion’s Roar

There are multiple speed bumps around campus to increase driving safety. Stop signs and crosswalks, such as those on Texas Ave., are in place to increase both driver and pedestrian awareness. All drivers, including students, faculty and visitors, should be conscious of pedestrians, as there are many walking on and around campus daily.

Over the past few months, driving safety has become an increasing concern on campus.

As of fall 2019, 14,298 students are enrolled at the university, and of that number, nearly 12,000 live off-campus. This means that it is a majority commuter campus, with almost 85% of students transporting to and from campus every day in addition to the on-campus residents that own vehicles.

In 2016, the university was ranked by College Choice number one in the state and number 15 in the country regarding safety, among 50 other large colleges and universities. The rankings take into consideration petty or violent crimes, fire incidents, arrests, women’s safety, drug/alcohol violations and discrimination. However, not much was reported about traffic violations and driving safety.

Anthony Milton Stire, a 2016 alumni of the university and local resident, experienced and witnessed multiple incidents as a pedestrian within the last year. Stire described difficulties he encountered with the authorities on campus when reporting these incidents. He recalled one night when he and his partner were walking near campus and university football players sped past them.

“They were coming from the University Center on North General Pershing, cutting into Ned McGehee, and they didn’t stop for the stop sign,” said Stire. “They were traveling very fast. I had to jump out of the way from getting hit.”

Stire said he informed the football team’s recruiting coordinator, Ross Jenkins, of the incident who said he had previously told the athletes to be careful. Stire told Jenkins that he had to report the incident in consideration for pedestrians who walk around campus and in nearby neighborhoods.

Stire explained that he emailed multiple authorities about the incident, including the president of the university John Crain, the vice president of student affairs Eric Summers, head football coach Frank Scelfo and university police captain Carmen Bray.

“Over the months, no one would listen to me,” shared Stire. “No one would call me back.”

In November 2019, Stire came upon an incident right after it occurred, noticing the ambulance and police cars. Local Hammond resident and octogenarian Terry Cooper and his 101-year-old mother had been involved in an accident where they were hit by a student pulling out of the Pennington Student Activity Center parking lot onto North General Pershing Street.

Stire explained that Cooper and his mother are frequent walkers of the sidewalks around the university and surrounding areas. He shared that Dr. Summers brought him into his office weeks later in regard to the incident.

“Eric Summers brought me in a couple weeks later and handed me this note that Terry wrote,” shared Stire. “Terry wrote this letter to the university. Basically, this letter is stating Terry’s accepting full responsibility, saying that the boy was completely non-negligent, it wasn’t his fault, it was Terry’s fault.”

Stire had expressed concern for them and other pedestrians when he reported his initial incident.

“I feel bad because I warned everyone,” said Stire. “I begged everyone, ‘Let’s do something about this before him and his mother get hurt.’ I’m 50 years old. I’m out of shape, and I have to dodge the cars. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for these two, especially after they’ve already been injured. They still do. Saturday and Sunday for sure, they’re always out there. You can’t miss them.”

Erin Jordan, a sophomore nursing major and commuter at the university, has also witnessed accidents involving speeding while driving to campus.

“One accident, it was raining, and someone was speeding, and one person sped off the road,” explained Jordan. “They were about two cars in front of me. Then the second person, they were in front of me, witnessed that, and they also crashed into the other car.”

Jordan explained that students should be prepared to get to campus on time so that they are not tempted to speed.

“It’s really important to me, in particular, to never be in a rush,” expressed Jordan. “You’re gonna get there when you get there. Leave early enough so that you’re on time so that you’re not late.”

Since the incident in November, Summers explained the kind of initiatives the university will be taking to further ensure driving safety.

“We are adding a lot of speed humps,” stated Summers. “You’ll see them coming up throughout the campus. Students who are running stop signs, our police are actually ticketing for that. We are also encouraging students not to cross over University Avenue. We added signs saying please do not cross and to use the tunnel instead of crossing that busy road.”

Summers expressed that pedestrians and drivers alike should be taking precautions.

“For pedestrians, don’t assume you have the right of way,” said Summers. “Please look both ways before entering a crosswalk. For our drivers, please know that this is a campus where people will be walking, and please yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalks. By all means, stop at stop signs.”