Recent pedestrian accidents could change WKU roads

A female pedestrian was hit in the crosswalk at the intersection of Normal Drive and Regents Ave. on Thursday, April 2. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Trey Crumbie

Since March, there have been two separate incidents on WKU’s campus that have resulted in three total people being hit by cars. With these accidents, changes could be coming soon to WKU’s sidewalks and roads.

On March 19, a car struck Nancy Rice, associate professor of biology, while she was walking across the crosswalk on University Boulevard, heading toward Jones-Jaggers Hall. According to the police report, it was raining and dark when Rice was hit. The driver was also distracted and could not hit his breaks in time before hitting Rice. Rice was treated for her injuries that night.

David Oliver, director of Environmental Health and Safety, said he would meet with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and the Kentucky Highway Department this week to improve visibility in the area. The university does not own some areas, such as Chestnut Street and University Boulevard, so changes to the road cannot be unilaterally made. Oliver said drivers usually drive straight through the crosswalk on University Boulevard because the traffic light is usually always green.

“It only turns red if a pedestrian hits a button,” he said.

On April 2, sophomore Caroline Bell and junior Hampton Freeman, both of Bowling Green, were hit on the intersection of Regents Avenue and Normal Street. 

According to the police report, the two students were hit in the crosswalk during a clear day. Bell had scrapes on her hip and said she was fine, but chose to go to the Medical Center for evaluation. Freeman was placed on a backboard at the scene and was transported to the Medical Center. The driver of the car said she wasn’t distracted when she hit the students. 

The area where the accident occurred has no pedestrian crossing signals. Oliver said the city of Bowling Green is planning to install these signals in the future. 

In July of 2013, the speed limit on Normal Street between College Heights Boulevard and Regents Avenue was reduced from 25 mph to 15 mph. The changes occurred after WKU requested ownership of the strip of road from the city of Bowling Green after a student was hit by a car in February of that year.

La Grange senior Tyler Scaff, who is the campus improvements committee chair for the the Student Government Association, said overall WKU does a good job handling pedestrian safety, especially in high traffic areas. 

“… Pedestrians are quite safe in virtually every area of campus,” he said.

Scaff said one of his recommendations to improve pedestrian safety includes a crosswalk installed between the two WKU Apartments on Kentucky Street.

“A lot of students are forced to jaywalk,” Scaff said.

Every spring, SGA hosts a safety walk with WKUPD and WKU officials. During the walk, SGA tours campus and point out any areas on campus that may need improvement, such as poor lighting or handicapped accessibility. 

This year’s safety walk is on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. and will begin at Centennial Mall. 

Oliver said distracted drivers are not the only factor that contributes to accidents. Pedestrians must also be alert and aware.

“We teach children at early ages to look both ways before you cross the street,” he said. “I see, at these crosswalks, students who don’t even look. They’re looking at their phone, or they’re talking to somebody or whatever, and they never look. They just step out.”