Students disregard traffic signals

At least one report of an injury resulting from jaywalking highlights a broader issue on campus: students’ disregard for traffic signals.

Students said they ignore traffic signals and crosswalks as they run to class or cross a busy H Street to get to the Marvin Center for a bite to eat.

Many said they see no reason to use crosswalks and obey traffic signals if there is no oncoming traffic.

According to a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a nonprofit transportation research agency, 13 percent of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians.

Many students seem unaware of the minor offense.

“What’s jaywalking?” asked sophomore Nick Van Zandt.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, to jaywalk is to cross the road carelessly without regard for traffic regulations.

Metropolitan Police classifies jaywalking as a “low-level pedestrian violation,” Second District Lieutenant Joe Trippy said. Violators are subject to a $5 fine, although a person could be assessed a higher fee if the jaywalking leads to a traffic accident.

Trippy said fining for jaywalking is not a “high priority.”

Students said they do not believe jaywalking should be subject to a fine, and it is more beneficial to get where they are going on time than to legally cross the road.

“It’s so inconvenient to walk to the crosswalk between Gelman (Library) and the Marvin Center,” freshman Briana Clifton said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever paid attention to the signals,” sophomore Matt Allen said. “Back home in California, the cars stop for me, so I feel perfectly comfortable stepping out into traffic.”

The majority of students said they only use crosswalks when it “is convenient,” and half of those interviewed for this story said they do not pay much attention to traffic when they cross the street.

Students said they talk on cell phones or to friends, read books or listen to music while crossing streets.

Students said drivers should be more careful when passing through the Foggy Bottom campus.

“Cars should be more aware that they are on a college campus,” freshman Ami Kolhekar said. “We also have places to go and are on a time schedule.”

“I think that in the vicinity of GW that there are so many students that cars should really watch out for us more often,” sophomore Alexis Rosenberg said.

Some students said they are more obedient of signals and crosswalks because of past experiences.

“Ever since I got hit by a circus truck when I was seven while jaywalking in Chicago, I realize the importance of the law concerning jaywalking,” junior Josh Balk said.

In the STPP report, D.C. ranked as the 31st most dangerous “large metropolitan area” for pedestrians with 279 traffic-related pedestrian deaths in 1997-98.

Florida cities Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater tied for the most
dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. Atlanta, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla., are also ranked in the top five most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians.

“I just think people should use common sense,” sophomore Jocelyn Campanaro said. “Don’t think that you can beat cars across the road.”

University of Maryland officials said jaywalking is not a problem on the College Park campus, located in a less urban area than GW.

“We haven’t had any accidents with jaywalking that I’m aware of,” campus officer Paul Dillon said.

A GW senior was hit by a car last week while jaywalking. The student disobeyed the traffic signal, which had begun flashing “don’t walk” just as she began to cross 23rd Street. The student did not receive a ticket.

A freshman was also hit while crossing 20th Street in late September 2000. She was fined $10, according to a Sep. 28, 2000 Hatchet article.

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