UM establishes safety committee after hit-and-run

Posted on Feb 5 2019 - 5:50am by Mckenzie Richmond

The University Police Department has established a Campus Safety Committee with the Associated Student Body in response to vehicle-pedestrian accidents that occurred on campus last semester.

UPD Chief Ray Hawkins said the idea behind the Campus Safety Committee is to partner with student government and create a direct line for students to talk about the issues that concern them when it comes to safety on campus.

Ray Hawkins. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“(ASB President) Elam Miller and I met last spring to discuss creating such a committee within his cabinet,” Hawkins said. “In the fall, we met with (ASB officials) Darby Todd, Grayson Giles, Charlotte Shackelford and Drew Perry to start the dialogue, discussing general safety on campus and the possibility of partnering to host a Campus Safety Week.”

Darby Todd, the founder of the Campus Safety Committee, said “there’s a lot more that needs to be done” about pedestrian safety on campus.

Todd said she hopes to get ideas from the student body during Campus Safety Week, set for March 4-8, but she wants to have more areas that are lit up at night and have illuminated crosswalks.

Last semester, a hit-and-run on Sept. 15 that left a student in critical condition heightened safety concerns on campus.

The vehicle struck Bailee Gray, a freshman hospitality management major, at the intersection of Northgate Drive and Sorority Row. The incident left Gray on life support for nearly a week after the accident occurred.

“After the accident I noticed some yield and ‘stop for pedestrian’ signs out in the middle of the crosswalks,” Gray said. “Everyone who’s interviewed me has asked me how I feel about our traffic safety, and at first, I didn’t see a problem with it.”

Gray said she thinks the campus crosswalks are relatively safe, but problems occur when people don’t make use of the crosswalks and walk into the middle of the street in a rush.

According to the UPD crime log, there was one pedestrian reported injured by a motor vehicle during the last academic year. This academic year, five pedestrians have been struck by vehicles.

ASB Vice President Walker Abel said the Campus Safety Committee is hoping to enact traffic safety measures soon.

ASB Vice President Walker Abel.  Photo by Hannah Hurdle

“The University Police Department and the safety committee meet frequently to discuss various ideas to ensure student safety,” Abel said. “There are a variety of ways that student safety could be improved, especially for pedestrians, such as new crossing signs, light poles … this semester we hope to work with UPD and the University to make some of these changes happen.”

According to Hawkins, it’s important for both pedestrians and motorists to obey all traffic laws in order to minimize traffic incidents. He also emphasized the importance of patience with school traffic to avoid reckless driving.

Hawkins said the Campus Safety Committee will be conducting “safety walks” to identify areas of concern to students.

“Currently UPD officers on patrol will identify areas where lights are out or additional lighting is needed and share that information with our crime prevention coordinator,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins advised students to download the LiveSafe App to report suspicious activity directly to UPD. Reports can be made anonymously.