Yale Traffic Safety Committee urges pedestrians to look up from their phones
Douglas Noble, a safety advisor at the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), was riding on the shuttle one day two years ago when a student walked into the side of the shuttle. The student was looking down at his phone texting while crossing the street and never realized the shuttle was there, he explained.
“It’s really a safety concern around here. It’s raising awareness for people getting off their phones and paying attention to traffic. That’s our goal,” said Noble.
Noble was one of several volunteers from the Yale Traffic Safety Committee, Yale Police Department, and EHS raising awareness about pedestrian safety, including the use of digital devices while walking, on April 6. The volunteers, stationed on the corner of College and Grove streets, asked students and members of the Yale Community to sign a pledge promising not to text and walk and to ensure others do the same.
While the student in Noble’s story walked away injury-free, EHS says pedestrian fatalities account for 12% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities and, on average, one pedestrian is injured every eight minutes and killed approximately every two hours in the United States.
Kirsten Bechtel, associate professor of pediatrics, decided to get involved with pedestrian safety after a motorist killed one of her daughter’s classmates two months after Yale medical school student Mila Rainof was killed in a similar accident while crossing the intersection at York Street and South Frontage Road. She said she hopes the event — along with the “Stop texting” signs throughout campus — will make students be more careful as they cross streets. A study conducted by the Yale Traffic Safety Committee found that 18% of people who cross the intersection where the fatality occurred are looking down at a device, said Bechtel.
“We’re trying make the cars on that road travel much more slowly but if you’re looking down at a phone, you’re not going to see a car that’s trying to beat the red light — and you’re going to pay the biggest price for it,” she explained.
In addition to making pedestrians more aware, Bechtel said, they are also targeting drivers through legislation (e.g. making the roads narrower, increased fines for reckless driving). She explained that there are three factors that contribute to an accident: cars, pedestrians, and the roads. Finding ways to make all three safer is the goal for EHS, said Bechtel.
For future events, Bechtel hopes to have students and other members of the Yale community write letters to the state government advocating for bills focusing on pedestrian safety, citing the success the Vulnerable User bill found through a similar strategy. The bill — which fines drivers $1,000 who fail to “exercise reasonable care” and causes the injury or death of a “vulnerable user” — became law in October 2014 after organizations pressured the Connecticut General Assembly to better protect pedestrians.
Safety tips from EHS and the Yale Traffic Safety Committee
There are many laws and regulations regarding pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic. Most of these laws are simple and require only common sense. Use the following “good sense” rules when walking:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks.
- Stop and look for traffic in all directions before crossing the street.
- Pay attention to the “Walk” signals — never cross on a solid or flashing “Don’t Walk.”
- Walk facing traffic when there are no sidewalks.
- Walk, don’t run. Running or darting into the street increases the danger that motorists will not see you or will not be able to stop in time.
- When using headphones, keep the volume low enough to be able to hear surrounding traffic.
- If you find it necessary to make or take a call or send a text while walking, stop, step out of the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and resume walking only when the task is completed.
- Stay focused on the people, objects and obstacles in front of and around you. Look ahead of you, not down, when stepping on or off a curb
- Stay alert to vehicles pulling in or out of parking lots, especially in winter months when it gets dark early.
- If walking or jogging at night, dress to be seen. Use a flashlight and wear reflective clothing.
- Familiarize yourself with and use the walking escort program. Dial “2-WALK” (2-9255) from any campus phone or use the night shuttle service: http://to.yale.edu/nighttime-routes.
- Look once, look twice, and look three times before you cross. Drivers don’t always obey the “No turn on red” signs or stop during the yellow light. Make yourself visible when you are approaching an intersection and make eye contact with the driver as you cross in the crosswalk.