Walking the Line

Kerry Wilson, Opinion Editor

Within the past two weeks, two Texas A&M University-Commerce students have been hit be vehicles while using the crosswalks on campus.

The first incident took place at the Culver Street crosswalk in front of Whitley Hall on Sept. 10, while the second occurred in front of the Rayburn Student Center on Sept. 16. Lt. Jason Bone, UPD, said crosswalk accidents are not a new thing to A&M-Commerce.

“Unfortunately it is fairly common,” Bone said. “It does happen at least once a semester, unfortunately. It would be easy to point the finger and blame, but you can’t really do that.”

Bone said he thinks crosswalks are natural danger zones.

“I think crosswalks in general are inherently dangerous, which is because you’ve got pedestrians crossing a road meant for cars, and I just think you’re going to have issues,” Bone said. “And the one at Culver especially so, because it’s at the top of a hill, so you’ve got some vision issues. We have a lot of 18 wheelers that are coming from the aluminum plant down here, so those guys are fully loaded a lot of times when they’re coming through the crosswalks. And, I’ve had had them call here and complain. They’re like, ‘Those students just step out and they don’t realize it takes me three times longer to stop than it does a car.’”

While examining crosswalk accidents in general, Bone said the cause behind accidents most of the time is because of neglect from drivers and pedestrians.

“A lot of times it’s on both sides,” Bone said. “Drivers either not paying attention, or sometimes pedestrians just step out in front. Technically, does the pedestrian have the right of way? Yes. But, we still have to use common sense too. If a guy is doing 40 miles an hour and you step out in front, he’s not going to stop.”

Bone mentioned that precautions from drivers and pedestrians, alike, should be taken.

“I always tell people that it takes two people to have an accident,” Bone said. “And like I said, I’m not placing blame. I don’t want to get into the finger pointing, because there are things that could be done on both ends that could help stop this. Drivers could pay more attention. They could slow down.”

The Culver Street crosswalk has seen many close calls pertaining to pedestrian crossings. Bone said that part of the problem involves the location of the crosswalk in relation to the sun, affecting drivers’ vision.

“That road, Culver Street, it’s an east-west road,” Bone said. “Okay, so there are times of the year, like in the evening when you’re going toward Wal-Mart, you’re driving right into the sun, so you can barely even see the crosswalk. There are also times of the year when you’re coming from Wal-Mart the other way in the mornings – when you can’t see. It’s just unfortunate, the fact that it’s east-west. It is what it is, but unfortunately it happens at least once a semester. It’s really sad.”

With the problems surrounding the Culver Street crosswalk, questions are often raised as to whether or not the school will build a bridge to alleviate the problems. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has asked for the funding for that this year, according to Bone.

The idea of building a bridge reminded Bone of a problem he experienced first hand at Kilgore College.

“I went to Kilgore Junior College for just a summer,” Bone said. “They have a similar problem to us. Highway 59 runs right through their campus, so the highway department put in an overpass. But the students, half of them don’t use it, because why would I go up the spiral and over when I could just cross the street? I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it. We should, but it needs to be done right to the point where it’s fenced off and you have no choice but to go over it, or we’re still going to continue to have people get hit at crosswalks.”

Bone said a fence is a forceful way of getting students to follow the rules.

“If you had to go walk way around a fence as opposed to just going up some stairs and over, people are going to just go up the stairs and over. But, if you don’t have a fence, they’re not going to go up the stairs. It’s the same thing at Kilgore. I mean, you can get a ticket there, but how many times have you seen people still walk that anyway.”

In the past, A&M-Commerce had a tunnel for students to walk through instead of crossing Highway 24. Crosswalk accidents like the two recent ones leave students wondering if the school will ever decide to reopen another one.

“At one time we had a tunnel underneath the highway, but it goes back to what we were kind of talking about with Kilgore – nobody used it,” Bone said. “Now it’s been closed up.”

Concerning whether the school will reopen another tunnel, Bone said like a bridge, something must be done so that students will utilize it.

“It is possible that somebody someday will choose to reopen it, but unless you do something to funnel students into it and make sure that they use it, it’s going to be like it always was.”

Bone said his message to students and drivers is to yield caution to each other.

“If you’re driving a car, go slow,” Bone said. “It’s better to hit somebody at 10 miles and hour than 20 miles an hour. Just go slow, because you never know when someone is going to step out, especially at night. I mean, it’s hard to see at night. And then pedestrians, give it respect. That’s definitely my message. Both sides need to use some good common sense safety things.”