University News

DPS ups pedestrian safety efforts in wake of hit-and-run

Contributing Writer
Friday, April 13, 2012

In the year since the hit-and-run accident that severely injured Amanda Chew ’14 and Juliana Unanue Banuchi ’14, the Department of Public Safety has augmented its pedestrian safety efforts ­- but both DPS and Chew said there is still more to be done.

DPS has implemented a number of measures to increase pedestrian safety within the last year, including the introduction of radar guns for traffic last October.

Since the introduction of the radar guns, DPS has been stopping more traffic-violating vehicles due to an increase in both traffic violations and DPS proactivity, said Mark Porter, chief of police and director of public safety. The department has punished traffic violators with warnings and citations, he said.

DPS has also made efforts to improve pedestrian safety by distributing reflective wristbands for visibility at night, said Michelle Nuey, DPS manager of community relations and outreach. The department has also moved to increase awareness through organizing a capture-the-flag event last semester, table-slipping and chalking sidewalks with pedestrian safety tips, she said.

“I feel like more can be done and should be done,” Chew said.

Chew said she has applied to serve as an Undergraduate Council of Students liaison between DPS and student groups, hoping to promote greater awareness of campus safety. Dialogue surrounding pedestrian safety should be expanded to include other groups, such as bicyclists, Chew said.

Porter said community engagement is a major component of bettering pedestrian safety, adding that DPS is hoping to collaborate with the Providence Police Department on traffic enforcement in key pedestrian areas like Brown and George streets and the walk from Brook Street to Manning Street. Education can play an important role in increasing awareness of pedestrian safety, he added.

Chew also emphasized the role education can play in deterring drunk driving. Rhode Island resident Jessica Paden was allegedly intoxicated when she drove into Chew and Unanue Banuchi, who were both walking on the sidewalk near Hope and Charlesfield streets, according to the Providence Police Department’s report.

“It can cause so much collateral damage, not only to you, but your life,” Chew said. “It’s just for five minutes of recklessness.”

Pedestrians must also exercise caution, Chew said. “People don’t think that it will happen to them,” she said. “This was the mentality I had until I got hit.”

Chew said the accident is still affecting her. “I’m frustrated because it’s been one year and (the legal matters are) still ongoing,” she said. “It makes me relive a lot of memories that I would like to forget.”

But developments in the case offer reason for optimism, she said. The state of Rhode Island will be charging Paden on all possible counts, including fleeing the scene of a crime and reckless driving, she said. Judge Netti Vogel will oversee the case. “This judge is different from all the rest of the judges because she spends a lot of time with her victims,” Chew said. Chew said Vogel, who was widowed by a motor vehicle accident, takes special interest in cases like hers and ensured a prosecutor met with Chew ­- an unusual occurrence.

A date for the hearing has yet to be determined.