On Aug. 31, the University’s Office of Communications and the Student Government Association officially launched the Road Scholar campaign, a key component of the University’s initiative of promoting pedestrian safety. However, accidents still persist around the Homewood Campus.
The University has striven to enforce road safety near campus through a three-pronged approach of education, enforcement and engineering. Under this umbrella of efforts, the campaign represents the stress the University has placed on educating its students on proper road safety conduct.
Thousands of pairs of neon yellow-painted shoes were attached to the fence at the intersection of St. Paul Street and 33rd Street. The hanging 3,000 yellow shoes symbolize the number of people in Maryland involved in motor vehicle accidents each year, while the white ones represent those who died from accident-related injuries.
“The point is to get people’s attention and getting them thinking about the consequences of walking,” Dennis O’Shea, Executive Director of Media Relations and Crisis Communications, said. “The hope is, by doing something eye-catching and dramatic and thought provoking, we get people to change their behavior.”
He says that since the campaign’s conception last spring, school officials have been committed to not only first spread awareness about road safety through the shoe display, but also to work with law enforcement.
O’Shea described the measures of enforcement as having police out there ticketing drivers who are speeding or engaging in unsafe practices when driving around campus.
The University’s amplified efforts in engineering have manifested in making physical changes to the streets to increase safety, such as modifying timing on the flashing cross signals, implementing signage and painting crosswalks where they are lacking.
Road Scholars was created in the wake of three accidents at the University in the last three years that involved students.
Hillary Walsh, a student from the University, was hit by a bus at the intersection of St. Paul and 33rd Street earlier this year. Nathan Krasnopler and Miriam Frankl were fatally injured in 2011 and 2009, respectively.
Additionally, Seol Ah Yoo was struck on the Peabody campus on Centre Street, between N. Charles and St. Paul streets, in August, illustrating the unrelenting traffic tragedies.
Despite the recent campaign and its positive goals, accidents have continued to occur. On Sept. 5, a visiting student attempting to cross N. Charles Street was struck by a north-bound car turning right onto 33rd street.
Student pedestrians’ behavior on the roads has not yet changed, though the campaign is in its early days. Despite police presence and the display, students still dash between cars, talk or text on their cell phones and wear their headphones.
Though the campaign has no specific quantifiable goal, O’Shea is dedicated to preventing further accidents and protecting pedestrians.
“We never thought a one-shot campaign would get the job done. You’ve got to keep delivering the message, and, if you can, you’ve got to do it in new and innovative, attention-getting ways,” O’Shea said. “Hopefully, during the course of the year, doing a number of things and constantly reinforcing the message will be useful and will affect people’s behavior.”
The prominent campaign has captivated the attention of students, though some doubt it will be effective.
“I feel that the shoes do catch people’s attention in what’s going on, but I don’t think it will replace the message or connect to the subject,” Sidra Hafeez, a Hopkins graduate student, said.