By Nicole Lafond
Always look both ways before crossing the street? Maybe it would be best for ONU students to avoid streets altogether.
Within a week’s time, three ONU students were hit by cars in three different locations: the intersection of Bresee Avenue and University Avenue, Weber parking lot, and the Oak Run and Main Street intersection.
On Sept. 29, junior Bethany Hotle was hit by a car as she crossed the intersection of Bresee and University Avenue. Hotle broke her left femur in half and sustained bruises and scrapes on her left foot and leg.
At the time, Hotle was on her way to the Admissions building. Before crossing the street, she made eye contact with the driver of the car opposite her. She began jogging across the street when the car turned right onto the road that she was crossing.
Hotle was struck on her left side and landed on the hood of the car.
The driver was a high school student and will be covering all of Hotle’s expenses. The incident has also been filed as a liability case because of the extent of the medical costs, Hotle said.
She knows it was an accident, but Hotle believes something needs to be done to prevent future incidents like this.
“Adding a pedestrian crossing sign or blinking lights to indicate people crossing in that area would be [helpful],” she said.
“People need to be more aware, as well, when driving on and around campus.”
Just five days later on Oct. 4, sophomore Max Ripberger was hit while biking across the intersection of Oak Run and Main Street. Ripberger said he had the crosswalk signal when the car turned right and hit him.
Ripberger said he had a split second in which he realized the driver did not see him and he knew it was going to happen.
Ripberger does not remember much of what happened after he was hit. “I can remember certain images, but that is it. I remember seeing and feeling the blood on my head, the police officer talking to me and people trying to help me walk,” he said.
He sustained injuries to his skull (a fractured temporal bone) above his right ear, temporary partial deafness in his left ear and a large scrape on his shoulder.
Ripberger is not taking any legal action against the driver as insurance is paying for his medical bills as well as the replacement of his bike, backpack and computer. He will receive a stipend for hours missed at work.
Ripberger is frustrated that he was hit because of the time he missed from school, but he remains thankful.
“The only reason it happened is because of an accidental right hand turn. My [situation] was nowhere near as bad as Bethany [Hotle]’s.”
On Oct. 6, another vehicle hit junior Catie Young in the Weber parking lot. She sustained no major injuries and was “sore, but alright.” Young was riding her bike back to her University Place apartment at the time. She stopped at the pedestrian walkway between the cars before riding through the parking lot. The car on her right stopped and waved her on, as did the car on her left, but before she cleared the intersection the car on her left struck her.
Young did not take any legal action besides writing up a report with Public Safety. She was not too shaken by the incident.
“I got hit by a car, life goes on,” Young said. “But I am pretty upset by the amount of people who are getting hit by cars. Drivers need to be much more careful.”
Although these incidents occurred in various locations on and around campus, the intersection of Route 102 and Route 45 remains to be the intersection of greatest concern, said Director of Public Safety Craig Bishop. “The Main and Main intersection is unique in circumstances due to the intersection of Route 102 with Route 45/52. The intersection involves angles and sight alignment that results in drivers not focusing on the crosswalk areas.”
Regardless of location, any intersection that involves a pedestrian seeking to cross a roadway is a potentially hazardous area. Bishop advises pedestrians and bicyclists to take full responsibility of their safety and to not trust the actions of the drivers around them.
To prevent future incidents, Olivet, the Village of Bourbonnais and the State Department of Transportation are still considering the construction of a pedestrian overpass that will cross the Main Street and Main Street intersection. The delay in the engineering of this project is due to a lack of funds.
“The University, being private property, has no jurisdiction or responsibility specific to the roadway intersection. That remains under the authority and responsibility of the Village of Bourbonnais and the State of Illinois,” Bishop said. “This has not, however, prevented the University from seeking to encourage and motivate improvements on behalf of the entire community, which includes Olivet [students and staff].”