University News

After hit-and-run, campus questions pedestrian safety

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Despite the University’s effort to increase pedestrian safety on campus over the past year, the April 9 hit-and-run accident that injured Amanda Chew ’14 and Juliana Unanue Banuchi ’14  has renewed concern across campus. A vehicle, allegedly driven by 30-year-old Jessica Paden of Providence, struck the students when it veered onto the sidewalk at the intersection of Hope and Charlesfield streets.

According to the Providence Police Department’s report, Paden committed a slew of offenses related to the incident, including driving while intoxicated involving bodily injury, refusal to submit to a preliminary breath test, not carrying a license and failure to stop after an accident resulting in personal injury or death. Paden pleaded not guilty April 11 and was released on $10,000 personal recognizance. Department of Public Safety Sergeant John Heston said it could be up to six months before Paden’s case goes to trial.

The officer who pulled Paden over was conducting a DWI checkpoint on Brook Street south of the accident’s site, Heston said. The area  sees more than its fair share of intoxicated drivers, he added.

According to the PPD report, Paden was pulled over after speeding down Brook Street and failing to stop at the Power Street intersection. When PPD Patrolman Noel Field noticed the smell of alcohol, he asked for Paden’s license, which she was unable to provide because she claimed it was stolen. Field then received word of the hit-and-run incident.

Witnesses at the scene of the accident identified the vehicle as an Audi, a description that matched Paden’s vehicle. Further examination of the crime scene produced a fragment of the vehicle that aligned with a piece from the suspect’s car.

Field asked Paden to submit to a standardized field sobriety test, to which she complied. But upon failure to finish the test, the report states Paden refused to submit to a breath test.

 In February 2010, Avi Schaefer ’13 was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking at the corner of Hope and Thayer streets, prompting the University to create a committee that would provide recommendations to increase pedestrian safety on campus.

In response to concerns over student safety in the wake of this month’s hit-and-run, Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, wrote in an email to The Herald that the University has implemented a number of the committee’s recommendations, including the creation of highly visible crosswalks at 40 campus intersections. “Our (Division of Campus Life and Student Services), in collaboration with the Department of Public Safety, has undertaken a broad array of education and awareness efforts, including urging students to be aware that drivers may not always be paying attention or may be impaired,” she wrote.

Despite these efforts, some students still expressed concern over pedestrian safety on campus. But Brown has an open campus, and University Hall has limited control over events on adjacent streets.

Gladys Ndagire ’13 said paying attention is not always enough. “I always take so much precaution” said Ndagire. Still, Ndagire was struck by a car just last week as she stepped from the street to the sidewalk, she said. “People in Providence drive way too fast,” she said. She said she sustained no injuries from the incident.

Phoebe Min ’13 said she does not feel as much of a need for precaution, adding she will sometimes cross without looking “because drivers know to be careful around a college campus.”

“I’ve noticed drivers on the phone and texting” said Audrey Chang ’13. Though she has jaywalked before, she said the habits of drivers near campus are also responsible for her close encounters with vehicles.

Encounters like these have made Ismail Khan ’14 more careful around campus, he said. “At night, I usually wait for signals,” Khan said, adding that he is more cautious because of the recent accidents and because he said he feels that “downtown Providence cars are crazy.”

But Alex Stuth ’14 said students do not always have the option to wait to cross the street legally. “It’s hard to wait for signals when going between classes,” Stuth said. He said he has also come close to getting hit and has noticed times at night where drivers do not have lights on. But he acknowledged that not all driving around campus is dangerous. “I’ve had some people who have let me cross the street,” he said, “but also some jerks who have almost hit me.”