Why aren’t you watching the road?

Photo by Viet Khue Vu | Mercury Staff

As a commuter school, traffic is heavy at UTD, and with that comes careless student drivers. Drivers need to slow down and focus on the road, and UTD should implement mandatory traffic safety classes.

Alongside complaints about parking scarcity, Comets frequently talk about nearly getting into car accidents on campus. Often, this is because someone did not wait long enough at a stop sign or properly check the road before taking a left turn. Pedestrians could be walking on the crosswalk, and still cars carelessly zoom by.

At UTD, we have no choice but to be extremely careful when driving on campus because of the large number of pedestrians. Students are in a rush to get to class and don’t always look both ways before crossing the street. And if you aren’t slowing down to watch, you could easily cause preventable harm. After all, you are the one in charge of a two-ton chunk of metal that can cause death on impact! People’s lives depend on drivers, so it is vital that you pay attention to your surroundings.

Careful driving is important, because while major collisions can be a real pain, even small accidents can affect you in ways beyond a loss of life. Insurance is annoying, and no one wants to deal with the hassle of contacting providers because someone left a dent on your trunk. Worse, collisions can cause you great financial pain. We’re all already broke students, so why would you want to add onto that? Skip the bill and look before you turn.

Thankfully, UTDPD has stepped in over the past few years to make our campus safer for both drivers and pedestrians. Lt. Jesus Gonzales of UTDPD’s Patrol Division said UTD has put up more signs and speed bumps to remind drivers to slow down in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

“Of course, if you’re not paying attention to that, it lowers the effectiveness,” Gonzales said. “Still, most people do pay attention. Otherwise, we would have a lot more collisions.”

However, a common pattern among all drivers is focusing on things other than the road. Sometimes you think about your upcoming class, the date you’re going on later tonight or what song is playing on the radio. But wandering thoughts can be dangerous. Even if your eyes are on the road, you can make grave mistakes if your mind is elsewhere.

“Just slow it down and be aware of how dangerous driving really is,” Gonzales said. “Not just to you, but also to the people around you. Just slow down and think about what you’re doing. If people would do that every time they got behind the wheel, it would save a lot of lives.”

It’s important to call out careless drivers for their behavior. Too many students think that they can break traffic rules with no consequences, and unfortunately, they are right. Freshman information technology and systems major Daniel Mulugeta said that he has experienced many instances of rough driving around campus as a commuter.

“The way people drive at UTD is extremely reckless,” Mulugeta said. “There’s some people that even drive on the opposite end of the roundabout circle, believe it or not.”

The last few years, UTDPD has made campus safer for drivers and pedestrians with more speed bumps and traffic signs. However, Mulugeta said that adding extra surveillance would be more impactful, especially in busy areas.

“Sometimes I might be going through the speed bump, and there’s this car in front of me that’s going way too fast, and the police officer doesn’t notice it,” Mulugeta said. “So UTD police need to be really strict and really alert as to how our students drive. That way, we can stay safe, limit the amount of accidents and people can get home safely.”

Both drivers and UTD are responsible for campus safety, even though the importance of slowing down might not be clear to everyone. Mulugeta suggested that a mandatory orientation module about safe driving could be implemented by UTD administrators and marked as “required,” like the modules on sexual harassment taken at the start of freshman year.

At the end of the day, it is up to drivers to make sure that our “pedestrian-friendly campus,” as noted by the signs around campus borders, is actually pedestrian friendly. Focusing on what’s ahead, paying attention to traffic signs and slowing down could make both pedestrians and drivers feel much safer.

“I feel like UTD needs to really, really evaluate how their students drive,” Mulugeta said. “ … at the end of the day, driving is a privilege and not a right.”

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