VSU students research ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in their community
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Research shows that U.S. pedestrian fatalities have now reached the highest level in 40 years. Now, staff and students at Valdosta State University are starting conversations about the safety improvements needed on campus.
VSU has teamed up with the Southern Georgia Regional Commissions to take part in making their community safer. VSU says if the community is a more attractive and safer place to live, it’ll bring more students in, and vice versa.
Dr. Anne Price, an associate professor for the VSU sociology program, says there’s been an increase in pedestrian and bicyclist accidents, especially since the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we saw a spike in sort of more aggressive and dangerous driving behaviors. Also, more bikes and pedestrians were finding a way to be outside while being socially distanced. And so both of those combined were sort of a difficult and risky situation,” Price said.
Dr. Price says Lowndes County saw 50 total pedestrian accidents in 2021. By the middle of 2022, there were already 26 accidents.
“Here at VSU, we want our students to be able to get around safely on foot and on a bicycle. So what we wanted to see is how could we make this region safer, and what are the improvements that need to be made. The first step was just to understand the long-term trends that we’re seeing, and the second step was to get into what improvements can be made,” Price, said.
Two VSU teachers had their students do experiential learning courses to come up with several variables that could improve pedestrian safety.
“Students reflected on their experience and then we provided a report to South Georgia Regional Commission on their findings and how to better improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in our area,” Brandon Atkins, senior lecturer for VSU’s criminal justice program, said.
WALB spoke with a student who says she has witnessed cars ignore the pedestrian signals when students are trying to cross. So, she’s proud her teachers had them be a part of this effort to improve pedestrian safety.
“I love it, I think it’s great. Coming into my data analysis class I was like ‘I don’t know what is going on.’ But after we started the project, I was like this is really interesting, and I’m excited to just be a part of it,” Autumn McAtee, a criminal justice student at VSU, said. “I think there should be signs coming up to the crosswalks. Bigger blinkers possibly. I know at night, they have the flashers on the road, and I think that’s good. But if there was just a way to improve the lighting and signs, that’d be great.”
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