According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, it is a state law that pedestrians have the right-of-way. “At non-controlled intersections, vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in a marked or unmarked crosswalk,” said the law. Despite this, on Feb. 7, a notification was sent to students at Washington & Jefferson College that earlier in the week a student had been struck by a car while crossing between New Residence Hall and the Hub. As a result, a new debate has arisen over who is held liable for this accident and how such incidents can be prevented in the future.
President Knapp is already trying to work with the city to get more lighting installed at the crosswalk in order to increase visibility and better warn vehicles when there is a student they need to yield to. However, I have spent a lot of time walking around that area at night. It is easy to understand how a vehicle could fail to see a student just beginning to cross the street on our campus. Due to another state law, the vast majority of vehicles always have their headlights on after the sun has set. And while the sidewalk near the crosswalk may not be particularly well-lit, the street itself is lit very well by the streetlights on either side of the crosswalk. It is in a student’s best interest to remain undistracted and look both ways when crossing the street to prevent future incidents. It may not be a foolproof method, but it will lower the chance of being struck by a driver nonetheless. It is a state law that vehicles must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. However, it is also against state law for drivers to text, accelerate past the speed limit or enter the Tech Center parking lot via the one-way Beau Street exit. Drivers are not always as careful as they should be, whether or not the law is involved. This is why the second part of that notification was a warning. “We encourage pedestrians crossing at crosswalks on campus to exercise extreme caution and give full attention when crossing, especially at dusk and at night,” said the official campus announcement.
Drivers are supposed to yield to crossing students, no matter what the road conditions or time of day may be. However, that does not mean that they always will, or even will always be able to yield if roads are icy. Cars are big. Cars are heavy. Human beings are neither. Any collision between the two is going turn out much worse for the student, possibly even fatally so. Students should make sure to be extremely careful when crossing the busy streets on campus.