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Safely spanning the campus streets

A recent rash of on-campus accidents and mounting traffic during the first week of classes suggest that students should take precautions with their cars, bikes and other modes of transportation.

According to University Police (UP) spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross, police responded to 15 accidents last week, including three hit-and-runs.

Although Ross said some of these crashes were minor and did not require a report, they still should remind all travelers that they must exercise caution on their daily routes.

The Oracle suggests these basic gadgets, services and tips for safely reaching campus destinations.

Cars

A good start is to know what features one’s vehicle comes equipped with. Two particularly helpful options are electronic stability control – which detects skids and applies brakes to help gain control – and blind spot monitoring systems.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is involved in more than 20 percent of crashes, and texting – which involves visual, manual and cognitive distraction – is the worst offender.

A few cheap solutions are available if students can’t resist using their phones.

Companies like Logitech and Motorola offer wireless cell phone headsets, but students can also create a do-it-yourself phone holder by placing it securely in an old iPod dock – then answering any calls on speakerphone. This keeps both hands on the wheel and reduces manual distraction to two button presses.

The free downloadable program ZoomSafer tracks phone locations through GPS to disable text and e-mail capabilities at driving speeds. The “safe drive mode” then automatically sends messages to the recipients saying that the individual is currently driving.

Bikes

USF traffic may seem clearer during nighttime, but student bikers should invest in headlights even for the smallest campus commutes. According to bicyclesafe.com, the most common way bikers get hit is by cars turning right, and flashing lights help drivers see approaching bikes.

Many headlights or rearlights cost less than $30, but there are specialty versions, too. The NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Light conveniently recharges its 200 lumen-power light in a computer’s USB port and costs $85 on Amazon.com.

Bells and horns’ quick sounds can aid cyclists in congested traffic areas where cars might accidentally wander into the bike lane – and be a fun throwback to a childhood bike.

Students can even visit University Bicycle Center on 1220 E. Fletcher Ave. or Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium on 14407 N. Dale Mabry Highway and ask about other bike accessories ensuring visibility.

Finally, cyclists should show courtesy to other commuters by keeping pedestrians’ paces at crosswalks and cars’ paces on roads. Trek Bicycle sells “cyclo-computers” ranging from $35 to $150 that notify riders of their current and average speeds – imagine an attachable speedometer for bikes.

Pedestrians and public transportation

One of the best ways to practice safe transit is to use the public transportation offered at USF.

The school’s free Bull Runner shuttle service runs through five different routes on campus from 7 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays and 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekends – while SAFE Team’s golf carts provide additional on-campus rides until 2:30 a.m.

Students can also find one of HART’s 25 on-campus stops to ride local bus routes on Nebraska Avenue, to Westshore Plaza and other locations for free when they present a USF ID.

If a trip becomes too confusing, don’t worry – travelers can access Google Transit from their cell phones to get directions.

No real safety devices exist for pedestrians. They are afforded right-of-way, but a UP release suggests that students constantly weaving through busy traffic should wear bright or reflective clothing to increase their visibility.

Miscellaneous

Students can also intermittently be seen riding longboards, skateboards, skates and scooters across campus, and there are a couple of ways to keep safe with them as well.

The best defense with such transportation is to cease use while crossing the street. Otherwise, walking students may have to dodge your passing figure, and inexperienced riders can easily slip on granite.

Instructables.com offers directions for making a foldable skateboard for quick and easy dismounting and storing, but students not up to the task can just make a habit of stopping before crossing streets.

Stowboard sells a foldable skateboard hybrid with a longboard’s low stance for $120, and adult folding kick scooters can be found at most department stores.

Above all, every commuter in a hurried race to a class or parking spot should remember that punctuality is not more important than the continued safety and welfare of all.