Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

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OUPD acquires radar unit for campus safety

In an effort to enhance pedestrian safety on Ohio University's Athens Campus, the Ohio University Police Department (OUPD) will begin using radar to enforce speed limits beginning late this semester.

The introduction of stricter speed enforcement is part of a multi-pronged approach to increase safety on campus roadways. Risk Management and Safety supplied funding to purchase a radar unit as part of a series of safety efforts being implemented by the President's Advisory Council on Campus Safety (PACCS). Jeff Campbell, director of Environmental Health and Safety and the occupational safety officer, serves on the council. Campbell said the council is made up of presidential appointees from all over the University – faculty, administrators, bargaining unit staff and members of each of the senates are members. PACCS has so far recommended improvements to sidewalks, cross walks and to blue light boxes around campus.

The money for the radar unit came from the Safety Now account, which was established to provide quick funding for projects concerning campus safety. The account is managed by Risk Management and Safety.

"The Safety Now account has been a big help to accomplish projects on campus," Campbell said. The radar unit is one such project, costing around $1,800.

Andrew Powers, Ohio University's police chief, noted that stricter enforcement is just one part of his department's efforts to enhance safety. His department has also recommended signage improvements, lighting upgrades, and will soon be acquiring an electronic speed sign to let motorists know how their speed compares with the posted limit. 

"We want to improve safety," Powers said. "If we can do that without writing tickets, that's great." Powers added that any fine money his department receives from tickets they do write will be used to pay for further safety enhancements like signage and lighting.

According to OUPD, the speed limit on campus roadways is 25 miles per hour and is clearly posted. Bicyclists are instructed to follow applicable traffic laws when riding in the road, or bicycles must be ridden entirely on sidewalks, where they have to yield to pedestrians.

A 1999 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report  established that speed is a significant factor in the injuries a pedestrian can sustain in an accident.

The report states: "It was estimated that only 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour or less. This compares with fatality rates of 40, 80, and nearly 100 percent for striking speeds of 30, 40, and 50 miles per hour or more respectively."

A motorist pulled over for speeding could face a maximum fine of up to $150. Officers are currently training with radar and once everyone is up to speed, they'll begin focusing on areas with crosswalks and high pedestrian traffic, such as South Green Drive, Stewart Street, University Terrace, Richland Avenue and Shafer Street.

OUPD will add radar enforcement warnings to all campus speed limit signs before they begin using radar.


Who has the right of way?

According to the Ohio Revised Code, section 4511.46, pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk if no other traffic control device (such as a stop sign or stop light) is in operation. Motorists should yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway the vehicle is traveling, or closely approaching from the opposite half of the roadway. 

Pedestrians should keep in mind, however, that the same section of code prohibits them from suddenly emerging into a roadway if doing so creates an imminent risk of an accident. This includes darting out in a crosswalk.

In situations with traffic control devices, pedestrians are advised to follow appropriate signals to safely cross roadways. Pedestrians crossing roadways outside of a crosswalk are required to yield to motorists.