Pedestrian Accidents Down--But Not Gone

An LSU student cuts between buses in the middle of Field House Drive, while talking on her cell phone. Credit: Sidney Kleinpeter
An LSU student cuts between buses in the middle of Field House Drive, while talking on her cell phone. Credit: Sidney Kleinpeter

By Sidney Kleinpeter | LSU Student

With an enrollment of more than 28,000 students, pedestrian foot and bike traffic through LSU's inner campus can be hectic. Many pedestrian crosswalks are painted throughout the campus to give students a safe path across crowded streets, but many students cut across the middle of streets whenever convenient.

LSU Police spokesperson Sgt. Blake Tabor said students believe the common myth that pedestrians always have the right of way.

"It's just a lack of personal education," Tabor said. "There are many instances where pedestrians do have the right of way, but that doesn't mean pedestrians can just walk out in front of a vehicle at the last minute."

Since LSU installed Phase I of Easy Streets in 2007, traffic-count studies show as much as a 62 percent reduction in vehicular traffic on campus, according to the LSU Office of Parking and Transportation.

Although the reduction in vehicular traffic has made it safer for students on campus, said Tabor, it also has made students more comfortable walking in the streets and less aware of their surroundings.

This is particularly true on Field House Dr. between Lockett Hall and Hodges Hall. Although crosswalks are provided on either end, many students cut straight through the road between parallel parked cars and First Transit busses picking up students at the bus stop, a hazardous situation for students and drivers.

Erica Massicott, safety manager for First Transit, said operators are trained to drive at least five miles per hour under the speed limit throughout the campus even if there isn't a crosswalk in the area -- even slower in areas with high foot traffic.

"We train them to slow down or even come to a complete stop," she said.

First Transit driver Chaille Thomas has driven a route on LSU's campus for a year and a half and says he is used to the fact that students think of it as a walk-free zone.

"It's a challenge to some, but I just take the mindset that it's a pedestrian campus so they will be walking everywhere. I look out for them."

According to LSUPD numbers, there have only been 13 pedestrian accidents reported on LSU's campus since Jan. 1, 2009, and nearly all of them were low impact crashes with minor injuries. Tabor said the Easy Street gates and low speed limits help keep accidents low.

Parking, Traffic and Transportation Director Gary Graham noted Easy Street gates are designed to make vehicles slow down, even when the gates are up.

Graham said Phase II of Easy Streets will make the campus even safer. for students, including hazardous areas such as Field House Drive. The proposed new layout would put "traffic-calming" grassy banks on both sides of the road, turning the current straight-shot into a winding, curvy route which would cause vehicles to slow as they meander through.

The grassy areas would also serve a second safety function, as new crosswalks would be painted between them, greatly cutting down the distance students would have to walk in the road itself. Parallel parking would be converted to diagonal parking for added visibility.

Work on these projects will begin within the next two years, depending on the funding, Graham said.

Until then, Tabor believes the best way for students to stay safe is to pay attention, be aware of their surroundings and avoid being lackadaisical between the crosswalks. And, he says, remembering the basics.

"When you cross the street, look both ways. It's something we teach our two and three year olds. It seems like sometimes students get so caught up in their classes, tests or projects that they get absorbed in their day and they forget about their surroundings."