UP working to improve pedestrian safety on campus
On a clear evening, a student thought her routine walk from class to her residence hall would be uneventful until she was crossing the street and a car was full-speed ahead of her. Isabel Benitez increased her pace to avoid the careless driver, but she held her breath as he smashed on his brakes a couple feet in front of her.
Benitez, a freshman majoring in chemistry, said she had a late-night panic as she was almost hit by a car on the north end of campus near Greek Village. She said she was walking in front of Cypress late at night when a car pulled in front of her with screeching tires.
According to University Police (UP), all were not as lucky as Benitez as there have been six reported pedestrian crossing accidents in 2018. The locations are spread throughout campus, but the largest cluster has been near USF Holly Drive.
According to Benitez, the students in the vehicle responded inappropriately to the potential collision.
“When they stopped I heard them laughing about it and when they drove off they said ‘oh my god did you see her face,’” Benitez said. “I get that it was late at night and you didn’t see me, but it wasn’t necessary to laugh at me afterwards.”
The latest reported accident was at 12:50 a.m. near USF Palm Drive, but accidents late at night tend to not be documented because of the lack of witnesses and recognition according to Chad Hill, a corporal who works for the Strategic Enforcement Section at UP.
Benitez said the area was quiet and there were no cars or people in the area. Due to the shock of the situation, Benitez was not able to take any further actions.
“I didn’t report it because I didn’t catch his license plate or their names or anything like that,” Benitez said.
Hill said he advises students to travel safely at night by using predictable actions.
“If you are walking home late at night wear visible clothing,” Hill said. “If you are on a bike or running, try to wear a light or reflectors to be seen.”
With construction sites and more people commuting on campus, Hill said pedestrians need to be cautious.
“Our ultimate goal is to have zero conflicts,” Hill said. “If there is an issue where students cross a particular area and there are common problems, then they need to let someone know so we can look at it from an enforcement and engineering perspective.”
Hill said it is the power of the student body to make smart decisions and be vigilant to their surroundings.
“It becomes a responsibility to look out for one another,” Hill said. “At some of our crosswalks, we have seen people blindly step out into traffic and assume cars are going to stop.”
Benitez said she believes students should feel obligated to respect boundaries with one another.
“Being a pedestrian and a driver myself, we should respect each other on campus,” Benitez said. “We know that cars are not going to stop if you step out onto the street and as a driver, you feel frustration when you see pedestrians on their phones not paying attention.”
Maya Perlman, a freshman majoring in business, was also in close contact with a vehicle on her way to class.
“I was walking across the street on a crosswalk and the cars stopped, but a motorcycle went around the cars and he would have hit me if he didn’t swerve last second,” Perlman said.
Two different parties reported on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 accidents in the intersection of USF Palm Drive and Holly Drive. One report stated that two people were injured and the other incident had no injuries.
Hill advised students to call emergency lines if there is an unanticipated danger.
UP and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are working to not just focus on safety in USF, but the streets that border it as well.
“We are working with Hillsborough County and trying to make recreational improvements on 50th Street,” Hill said. “We are working to get new lights, signs and they recently dropped the speeding limit.”