Campus shouldn’t be battle zone

There is a war happening on our campus, and you enter the battle zone every Monday through Friday like clockwork. Every morning, half-awake students walk out of their residence halls and onto roads where commuting students are driving, scanning for the few precious empty parking spots left.

The combination of drowsy walkers and distracted drivers leads to angry students, close calls and dire collisions.

It’s hard to imagine that tensions between drivers and pedestrians are so high on a campus with crosswalks and a 15 mph speed limit.

Students who live on campus all seem to have stories of narrowly avoiding speeding cars on their way to class. On the other side, commuters mourn the loss of their brake pads as they stop every few yards for jaywalking students.

The ongoing battle seems to escalate every winter.

There are few things worse than walking to class with cold wind cutting through your coat. I know I walk twice as fast when it’s cold outside to avoid becoming a human icicle. The potential dangers of jaywalking don’t weigh heavily on the mind when the wind chill is below freezing.

For students driving to class, the normal stress of watching out for pedestrians is made even worse by the winter road conditions. No matter how much salt is put down, there are always a few icy patches that manage to stick around.

Once the snow and ice finally melts and gathers into puddles next to the curb, walkers have to deal with being splashed with muddy water as cars drive by. Most commuters used to live on campus and remember how horrible and cold that murky water is. They try their best to avoid the puddles or drive through slowly enough to not make a splash. But for every considerate driver, there’s another one who couldn’t care less.

In defense of student drivers, most of the problems I’ve had with vehicles happened when Cookeville residents drove through campus as a shortcut to wherever they needed to be. I once had a woman practically run me over on a crosswalk and then yell at me for not yielding to her minivan. The woman was not affiliated with Tech at all. Ms. Minivan was just a local who clearly needed a refresher course on road rules.

There isn’t much that we as students can do about the community members driving through campus. We can, however, improve our own habits.

Walkers on campus have got to make more of an effort to use crosswalks and look both ways before crossing. We tend to see the roads on campus as safer than roads elsewhere, and we become careless.

It is dangerous to assume that traffic will always yield to pedestrians. Next time you cross the street, be aware that the car coming towards you could have another Ms. Minivan behind the wheel.

I know it’s a pain to walk out of your way to reach the crosswalk, especially if you are by the Bryan Fine Arts building. Just remember that drivers know where the crosswalks are. They don’t know about every other random location you use to cross the street.

The main thing commuters can do is make sure they are going the speed limit. The faster you drive, the farther you will travel between the time it takes for you to realize you need to stop moving and the time you physically hit the brake.

If you are speeding and a student walks out onto the road without noticing you, those few extra feet can be the difference between a near miss and a tragedy.

I realize that empty student parking spots are a rare commodity. At this point, it’s more likely you’ll find Bigfoot lurking around the president’s lawn than find a parking spot after 8 a.m.

Nevertheless, speeding through campus in hopes of getting a spot is a dangerous gamble. Doing a few extra laps around the parking lot takes less time than dealing with the legal implications of hitting someone with your car.

Whether driving or walking, we’re all trying to get to class. Facing your millionth quiz is bad enough without worrying about reaching the classroom safely.

If both sides are more conscientious of one another, we may be able to end the war between commuter and pedestrian once and for all.

Updated 2/12/11