Freshman Molly Offstein’s incident has prompted a discussion about campus-wide road safety.
In light of this 7:30 a.m. March 4 accident, Dan Anderson, vice president of Elon University Communications, said it is important to realize that road safety “is a shared responsibility for the entire community.”
“It seems as if every year there is a student that’s hit, and it’s not usually serious, but it has been serious on a couple of occasions,” Anderson said.
According to Lt. Mark Sweat of the Town of Elon Police, the driver — who was not a student — was traveling below the speed limit at the time of the accident. She was taken to UNC Health Care with life-threatening injuries and put into a medically induced coma.
Anderson said in the time he has lived in Elon — more than 19 years — the university and Town of Elon have made “tremendous” investments in road safety.
“Some of the areas that have had the greatest improvement are the roads themselves, traffic calming devices and clearly marked crosswalks,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said special attention has been paid to better lighting for vehicles and pedestrians.
“There have been tremendous investments in lighting. All of the streets are highly lit now, especially in crossing areas,” Anderson said. “You’ve got investments to slow traffic and to make pedestrian crossing safety much improved.”
Additional sidewalks, Anderson said, have been major investments by the university and town. Sidewalks have also been added along Trollinger Avenue, Oak Avenue, Williamson Avenue and Phoenix Drive.
Before Offstein was hit, Town of Elon Police Chief Cliff Parker said the Elon University Campus Police and Town of Elon Police partnered to apply for the Watch For Me NC Campaign. According to its website, the program features two essential elements — “safety and educational messages directed toward drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, and enforcement efforts by area police to crack down on some of the violations of traffic safety laws.” The program is still in its early phases, but Parker said it should encourage the community that the necessary steps are being taken.
“This is just another reason why people should feel safe,” Parker said.
Parker agrees that while many investments have been made for road safety, pedestrians also have a responsibility for their own safety. There were no sidewalks nor was there a crosswalk at the intersection where Offstein was hit. But
Parker said sidewalks or crosswalks are not an excuse to ignore your surroundings.
“Even if you’re in a sidewalk and you are protected legally, when a car hits you, you aren’t going to be protected physically,” Parker said.
Shortly after Offstein was hit, Parker said he saw a woman running extremely close to the road. When he pulled up beside her and asked her to be more careful, she said, “I’ve been an avid runner all of my life; I know what I’m doing.”
To Parker, that didn’t sit well.
“You may run all of the time, but that may not save you,” Parker said. “You still have to be observant of what you are doing.”
Parker outlined advice that he said “everyone should already know,” regarding road safety: Don’t drive distracted, wear bright clothing when jogging and avoid dense pedestrian areas if possible. Parker said if people are not careless, many accidents could be avoided.
“The direct route to a particular location might be down Haggard, but if you are going down that road at a particular time, you might get stuck because students may be traveling that way after class gets out,” Parker said. “Taking the time to go an alternate route may be safer in the long run.”
A lack of general awareness of typical safety procedures is why Anderson said it is important that students and other members of the community remember that road safety is everyone’s duty.
“If you are driving in the campus area, it really requires your attention to the roadway to make sure that you are driving safely and not at a high speed,” Anderson said. “You have to watch out for people who might be crossing, you can’t be texting or on the phone or distracted in any way because there are so many people that are walking around and crossing the street.”
Pedestrians have a responsibility, too.
“It is really a shared responsibility between the drivers and the pedestrians to stay safe,” Anderson said.
“If you are a pedestrian, you need to remember that the campus includes roadways where people are driving. It is not a smart thing to be texting or looking at your phone or doing something where you are not watching for traffic when you are crossing the streets,” Anderson said.
Paul LeBlanc, breaking news manager, contributed reporting