BG police urge pedestrians to avoid jaywalking

As the walk sign flashed at the intersection of Wooster Street and Thurstin Avenue, Brian Gerker crossed the street toward campus.

But then a white van turned the corner and struck him in the back left side before driving away.

Gerker, a freshman, suffered deep muscle bruising in his back and missed a total of five classes because of the accident last month.

While accidents involving pedestrians aren’t common in Bowling Green, police caution pedestrians not to assume they have the right of way when they cross and warn that jaywalking increases the risk for accidents.

Gerker said he doesn’t think some University students realize the need to be cautious and alert when crossing streets near campus.

“I’ve seen students just walk right up and not look and run across,” Gerker said.

The intersection where Gerker was struck is one of the most dangerous intersections in town for pedestrians, according to Lt. Tony Hetrick of the Bowling Green Police Department. He said pedestrians sometimes forget to watch for cars that might follow the green turn arrows, and drivers don’t always expect pedestrians to be crossing while they’re turning.

Two other dangerous intersections in Bowling Green are at Main and Wooster Streets – because of the high volume of traffic – and at Thurstin Avenue and Court Street, Hetrick said.

Many pedestrians might assume they have the right of way at all times at the Thurstin Avenue and Court Street crossing because of how the former crosswalk was set up nearby on Thurstin. But if a car arrives before a pedestrian at the new crosswalk, the car has the right of way because it’s a four-way stop, Hetrick said.

Not using crosswalks can add to the risk of an accident, said Sgt. Tim Guthrie of the University Police.

“Most people tend to wait for [pedestrians], but if [pedestrians] tend to cross where they’re not supposed to, then they’re putting themselves in danger,” he said.

But students often don’t use crosswalks around campus.

“All of campus is pretty much one big jaywalking area,” said Angie Slade, University Police Records management officer.

Between the intersections of Mercer and Wooster streets and Thurstin and Wooster, The BG News observed at least 18 people jaywalking in two minutes between 11:23 a.m. and 11:25 a.m. on Oct. 11. According to the Ohio Revised Code, pedestrians are not permitted to cross a road at a point other than a crosswalk between intersections where traffic signals are in operation, and those observed did not cross at crosswalks.

One way to decrease the potential for pedestrian accidents caused by jaywalking is to increase enforcement against those who don’t use crosswalks, an approach recently taken by the Iowa City police in Iowa.

In the first eight months of this year, Iowa City had issued more tickets and warnings to jaywalkers than in the past two years combined, according to The Daily Iowan.

But despite the risk of accidents, Bowling Green students and residents don’t necessarily want to see jaywalkers issued more tickets around the campus or city.

“I think it’d be a really big inconvenience if they did that here,” said Kristen Shoemaker, sophomore, who said she jaywalks every day.

Ron Scherer, professor of communications studies, said while he doesn’t think jaywalking is a problem, extra enforcement could be needed at times when students jaywalk in large groups or on days with low visibility.

Kern estimated that the BGPD could give out hundreds of tickets to jaywalkers any given night. But he said officers would likely only ticket a pedestrian who makes a car stop or who crosses in front of a cruiser.

Whether issued by the BGPD or University Police, a ticket for jaywalking would cost $71 for the first offense. The BGPD has issued six citations since the beginning of this year, while University Police has only issued warnings, according to police records.

For some students, both jaywalking and the potential for accidents with pedestrians near campus could be reduced by adding more crosswalks.

“It is kind of a dangerous situation how the crosswalks are set up,” Gerkin said. “There’s not really a whole lot of crosswalks, like around Wooster Street.”

But whether pedestrians cross in the proper places, he strongly encourages them to not take for granted that cars will see them or stop for them.

“Watch out – be aware of your surroundings because all of the drivers and cars don’t always know what’s going on around them, so pedestrians should be aware of what’s around them,” he said.