UNM considers pedestrian safety changes after bus accident
UNM is considering street renovations to improve pedestrian safety on campus in the aftermath of a University bus accident that struck and seriously injured a student four weeks ago.
Vice President for Student Affairs Eliseo Torres said the University will take extra precautions to improve pedestrian safety in the future. He said Student Affairs and the office of the dean of students plan to conduct conversations with UNM’s Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) about the incident in the coming months.
“We’re truly sorry that the accident happened to the student,” he said. “What we’re going to be trying to be telling students is to be very cautious when they walk on campus and to be aware of traffic.”
On April 12, a UNM shuttle that was driving from the G-Lot in north campus ran over UNM student Sharon Broome, 58, who was crossing Lomas Boulevard against a “don’t walk” sign. The bus driver, who claimed not to have seen Broome, drove over the student’s legs. Broome was immediately rushed to UNM Hospital and subsequently underwent leg surgery there.
Torres said although Broome was in pain last week when he visited her, she “appears to be doing better.”
Torres said the University should update safety features in some streets on campus because of the increased number of students who live in the residence halls. He said Student Affairs has addressed this problem with PATS in past meetings.
“There seems to be more traffic than ever because of the additional number of students who live on campus,” he said. “We’re concerned with that. We’ve had some meetings on how we could improve the conditions of the streets.”
Other universities have taken dramatic steps after similar incidents occurred on their campuses. According to the Daily Campus, a University of Connecticut student was struck and killed by a university shuttle in 2011. UConn’s Board of Trustees approved a $2 million project to improve pedestrian safety on its campus.
Renovations included sidewalk replacements and new street lights.
Loudspeakers were also installed on buses to alert pedestrians.
UConn also formed a committee to assess pedestrian safety on campus regularly and make sure the improvements were effective.
Robert Burford, student conduct officer for the dean of students, said there are enough crosswalks on campus. But he said the University will gladly hear students’ suggestions on how to improve pedestrian safety.
“I think it’s safe,” Burford said. “What happened was an accident, although we would need more details on that. And if students feel like there are not enough crosswalks, they should let our office know.”
But Burford said that if renovations did happen, the University should focus on adding crosswalks and signage along Las Lomas, Redondo and Yale boulevards because he said these streets have heavy foot traffic.
Burford said that although there are no campus initiatives that focus on jaywalking prevention, the University aims to raise student awareness on the issue through mass emails and presentations during new student orientations. But he said educating students on the issue would be difficult.
“I ride the bus a lot and see people running across Central (Avenue) not at a crosswalk, but dodging cars just like Frogger,” he said. “That’s not what we want students to do … but it’s hard to change people’s convenience. We can tell them as much as possible about it. But even if we did that, students are going to still take the most convenient route.”
According to Texas newscast KVUE.com, the University of Texas in Austin took aggressive anti-jaywalking measures after a bus struck and killed a student in April 2012. According to The Daily Texan, the University implemented a zero-tolerance jaywalking initiative for three weeks after the incident, which resulted in the Austin Police Department issuing 475 citations and 180 warnings in the first two weeks of the initiative to pedestrians who jaywalked.
Burford said the University should situate crosswalks in areas that are most visited by students to encourage more students to use crosswalks..
“We have to put crosswalks out there where we feel the most appropriate areas are,” he said. “That will make the students utilize the crosswalks instead of jaywalking.”
UNM student Danielle Savedra said she is aware of the dangers of jaywalking on campus. She said the University should penalize jaywalking to prevent it efficiently.
“I don’t jaywalk at all because I’m really scared of cars, and others should be, too,” she said. “If she got ran over, students should be very careful. The University should not allow jaywalking at all.”
Burford said students who walk on campus should be attentive and aware of their surroundings.
Torres said he advises drivers to be patient and respectful when driving on campus.
“Drivers should slow down and to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t happen. They’re in a hurry or they’re thinking of something else. I think we should always be in the defensive side and caution both pedestrians and drivers.”