College and university campuses are bustling environments filled with students, faculty and visitors on the move. Travel safety on campus is always a top concern for school administrators, and with the number of end-of-semester activities, athletic events and graduations taking place this time of year, it is especially important for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to do their part to help reduce risks.
A Dynamic Transportation Environment
The predominant means of travel among college-aged adults is on foot. Campuses often have limited parking as well as dense concentrations of activity in classrooms, offices, dormitories and athletic and recreational facilities. As a result, walking and bicycling are the most convenient ways of getting around.
Many colleges also attract commuters who use cars or public transportation, and these campuses are surrounded and dissected by a complex network of roadways. Countless studies at higher education institutions across the country have found that the combination of high levels of walking and biking in conjunction with high levels of vehicular traffic creates a dynamic transportation environment that poses safety risks to all roadway users.
The Consequences of Distracted Walking and Driving
For both drivers and pedestrians, distraction is a key contributing factor to accidents on college campuses. Large numbers of students using the roads is distracting for drivers, who must also watch for directional signage, roadwork, and cars and utility vehicles entering and exiting multiple parking lots. Students who drive on campus may be in a hurry, or they can become so comfortable with their driving routine that they pay less attention to their surroundings.
Pedestrians are equally distracted, if not by their friends then by their mobile devices. Research shows that pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use are on the rise, including on college campuses where both abound. While pedestrians typically have the right of way, they often assume approaching cars can see them and fail to look or pause before stepping into the street. Conversely, the driver may assume the pedestrian is paying attention.
Regardless of who is at fault, statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) have shown a steady increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. The GHSA reports nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017, and pedestrians now account for approximately 16% of all motor vehicle deaths compared with 11% just a few years ago.
Solutions for Improving Safety
Improving pedestrian, bicycle and driver safety requires research and careful planning. Many colleges and universities have conducted studies to determine how to implement changes in road design and signage to reduce risks. This research often involves identifying specific danger areas like campus activity hubs, high-traffic intersections and parking lots. It also examines factors ranging from signal controls, speed limit signage and enforcement of traffic laws to pedestrian crosswalk design and upkeep.
There are many options for improving safety for pedestrians and drivers, including: Creating larger crosswalks with clearly-marked striping; installing in-street pedestrian crossing signs or yield-here-to-pedestrian signs with in-roadway flashing lights; adding physical barriers such as concrete, metal fences, chains or trees to channel pedestrians to crosswalks; or speed monitoring trailers and speed tables or humps to reduce vehicle speed. Delineator posts are another alternative to protect both pedestrians and drivers by clearly identifying traffic patterns.
University campuses are also excellent locations to implement safety education programs. These can include distributing brochures, offering classroom lessons, implementing campus-wide marketing campaigns and conducting driver training.
Both motorists and pedestrians can take steps to help improve safety for all road users. Drivers should avoid distracting activities, signal turns, observe the speed limit and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked. Pedestrians need to observe traffic-control signals and only cross roadways in designated locations where motorists can be prepared to stop. They should also make eye contact with oncoming motorists and cyclists and indicate their intention to cross the road.
Keeping students, faculty and visitors safe on our college campuses is imperative, and it requires everyone to stay alert and follow the rules of the road. If you need assistance in improving travel safety at your college or university, contact us at Traffic Safety Direct. We love to share our experience and can recommend the right products to assist you in your efforts.