MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two auto-pedestrian accidents in February have turned tragic, and West Virginia University wants to do something about it.
“We’ll try to look at everything and see if anything pops out,” said Rob Alsop, WVU’s VP for Strategic Initiatives. “I don’t have anything at the moment to say, ‘Yes, we need to do this.'”
21-year-old Leah Berhanu died after she was hit by a vehicle Feb. 1 near Evansdale Crossing, prompting WVU to take their first step to try and make the area safer.
“Our police department and Morgantown City Police had tried to increase enforcement and be watching that area,” Alsop said.
But not far from the scene of the first accident, 20-year-old Sarah Queen was struck by a Ford F-250 while in the crosswalk Tuesday morning along Monongahela Boulevard.
“We have two accidents,” Alsop said. “One happened at night, the other one happened mid-morning. So, lighting as it relates to daylight wasn’t an issue there. We want to be thoughtful about it.”
Queen, a native of Weston in Lewis County, remained in critical condition Thursday.
“MPD is investigating the accident,” Alsop said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the student.”
He’s opening the floor to students, staff, and residents to make suggestions and has already received some correspondence.
“It’d be the normal things you’d think about of lighting and interaction of pedestrian and vehicles.”
That also included a conversation with Morgantown City Manager Paul Brake; with both men agreeing that they needed to get in front of the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board as soon as possible.
“When you’re in an area where there are cars and people walking, both the pedestrian and the driver need to use extra caution,” Alsop said. “We’re not saying anything about these two instances, but we just thought it was time, given these accidents, to take that comprehensive look and see how we can work collectively — if there’s anything that can be done relating to these places or others on campus where there are crosswalks on campus.”
Though both investigations remains ongoing, WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts suggested both drivers and pedestrians in Morgantown are in need of a wake-up call. He declined to comment on the ongoing investigations, but said he’s seen instances of both driver and pedestrian negligence in his several decades at WVU.
“Sometimes we get in a hurry as drivers or as pedestrians, and we aren’t quite as alert as we should be,” he said. “So, I think if I could make an adage to pedestrians, you maybe fall back on the old adage of stop, look, and listen before you step out.”
He particularly emphasized the need for driver’s to be more cognizant of caution lights.
“Caution lights don’t mean speed up,” Roberts said. “Caution lights there are to alert you that the light’s getting ready to turn red, and you should slow down.”
Lives, quite literally, depend on it, Roberts said.
“There’s no meeting or job or any other thing that can’t wait for two to five minutes when the light changes,” he said. “It’s important that we kind of exercise patience and use good judgment.”