University officials address public safety on campus
Jake Saunders, brother of the female student hit on Dec. 5, 2012, said he hopes the accident serves as a reminder that something may need to change at this particular crosswalk.
“I’ve been told by professors and other students that students get hit there every semester. Obviously it’s pretty dangerous,” Saunders said. “It makes me wonder how many more lives have to be affected before UVU realizes that it’s a dangerous street.”
University officials have taken note of these concerns and other factors which contribute to the need for increased public safety overall.
“Auto-pedestrian traffic is always on our mind, especially in light of how our campus has grown,” said Chris Taylor university spokesperson. “The safety of our students is our highest priority, and any accident is one too many. The job is never done when it comes to safety. We are looking into further options to make the surrounding areas, and that street specifically, safer.”
Public safety projects are affected by the number of students on campus in more ways than one.
“We’ve got budget cuts coming up because of the decrease in enrollment, so we don’t know for sure what’s happening with that, but we are working on that and we’re also coordinating with Orem City,” said Jim Michaelis, associate vice president of facilities and planning.
Michaelis further stressed the university’s commitment to ensuring safety of both drivers and pedestrians.
“We’re always trying to look at ways we can keep students away from the vehicles,” Michaelis said. “As a campus plan, we try to keep the buildings and parking on the interior of the roads, rather than having them on the exterior.”
Three significant accidents occurred in 2011 at UVU and one accident in 2012. Because of this, officials are considering safety options not only near the Testing Center, but in other areas of campus.
“We’re looking at putting a stop light on McKay Drive and 1200 West,” Michaelis said. “We’ve had a number of accidents there, as well as 800 South and 1200 West.”
Public safety along 1200 West, 800 South, 1200 South and 400 West is under the direction of Orem City, though Utah Valley University partners with the city on many projects along these streets.
Michaelis, who serves as a member of the Orem Transportation Advisory Committee, said UVU is regularly discussed in council meetings because it is considered a big traffic generator in the area.
At the beginning of fall semester last year, two HAWK, or High Intensity Activated Crosswalk, light signals were installed, one on 1200 West and another on 800 South, just south of the Education Building, after working with Orem City.
How quickly a crossing project is developed, completed and ready for use largely depends on access to funding. The HAWK signal project took approximately three months, from concept and planning to installation of the signals.
The university has also worked to update crosswalk underpasses. Crossing guards were placed at two locations near the construction of the new Student Life Building and Parking Structure. Both were steps made to ensure pedestrian safety.
Saunders still feels his sister’s accident could have been avoided all together if similar precautions had been taken at the Testing Center crosswalk as it has been in other areas of campus.
“I know accidents happen, but this one could have been prevented I think,” Saunders said. “Cars speed down that road [800 South] all the time. I think [installing] those flashing lights on 1200 West would be better.”
Transportation Advisory Committee meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at Orem City Hall and are open to the public.