Back-to-school drivers need to get their heads into gear

Sunday, August 24, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

I am writing to you in hopes that this message will be distributed to the drivers of Columbia. After living in this city for seven years, I've come to a conclusion, and unfortunately, it's not a pleasant one. I hope that someone will answer, providing me with a better understanding as to why my life is constantly in danger during the students' arrival in August and January, as well as during their respective departures.

I understand that, for parents of incoming freshmen and students, Columbia is new, flashy, exciting and thrilling all at the same time. But I ask: Why do you feel the need to ignore all traffic laws that you would otherwise always pay attention to at home? Why is it impossible for you to move your head to make sure there isn't some staff member or other new student in the street? I've been here seven years, have almost been hit 11 times and have actually been hit twice. I'm not talking about vehicle-to-vehicle contact; I'm talking about having to jump up onto a hood to avoid severe knee and leg injuries. The number of near misses via vehicle collision greatly outnumbers that of "hood trips."

For some reason, people also seem to think that driving slowly isn't dangerous. A number of times, I've almost been rear-ended by someone because of my deceleration caused by the car in front of me driving 5 miles per hour, searching for some hall, some parking lot, or just marveling at the campus' beauty. Again, I understand that this is an exciting time in your life, the campus is beautiful and that there are many things to see and do here in Columbia, but that's what Summer Welcome is for - not while hundreds of other parents and students are moving in each hour. That's why the university tries to promote parents' visits: to acclimate them to the area, make them more comfortable with the layout and improve moving in by placing less pressure on unfamiliar parties.

But please don't think that this note is geared only toward the parents who seem to suffer from traffic law amnesia. Students eager to get into their new dorms, or who are returning from their summer away, fly through intersections, red lights and crosswalks as if there is no real danger. Despite their possible belief that no one actually lives in this town over the summer months, there are still faculty, staff and residents that rely on drivers stopping at crosswalks and obeying traffic lights. Why - I ask anyone who might know - do these returners feel they are exempt from these safety rules? Have you never been run down by a person whose priority was to save several seconds rather than preserve safety of someone else's well-being? Is it inconvenient to check over your shoulder or use your mirrors to see if someone is crossing? Do your SUVs and trucks and packed cars hide your view so much that you can't see beyond the straight view of your windshield? Is it worth it to injure someone? And no, an awkward smile and mouthing "sorry" doesn't forgive you to do it again and again.

Seven years, and 11 close call trips to the ER later, I write this letter to the Missourian because I was able to add another tick mark to this record. Walking across the street to my office here on campus, I was nearly run down, a blaring horn blasting as if it were my fault for being in the crosswalk. I hope that someone reads this, that someone takes note of it and decides to wait the 30 seconds you may lose at the red light, instead of running down someone who is simply trying to get from here to there.



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