Half a year after the tragic death of Mila Rainof MED ’08 from a car collision in April, the city, in conjunction with Yale-New Haven Hospital, has broken ground to improve road safety in the medical school area.
In the latest initiative of the Street Smarts Campaign, the New Haven Department of Transportation is working with Y-NHH to launch a series of pedestrian safety renovations at 12 busy intersections scattered around and within the Yale School of Medicine campus. In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the city will demarcate several new crosswalks, install an assortment of new pedestrian signposts and increase curb radii to shorten the distance pedestrians must walk on the road itself.
“We hope that a lot of these measures will calm traffic in the area, create more visibility and awareness regarding pedestrian traffic,” Y-NHH Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Vin Petrini said. “It’s important that we do all that we can.”
Nancy Angoff, associate dean for student affairs at the School of Medicine, said road danger is a result of lack of cooperation from both drivers and pedestrians.
“There is the larger problem of educating everyone,” she said. “Both pedestrians and the drivers take ridiculous chances on the pavement – drivers run red lights, and pedestrians ignore no-walking signals.”
Director of the Department of Transportation Mike Piscitelli cited the deaths of Gabrielle Lee and Rainof earlier this year as the impetus for city officials to crack down on both inattentive drivers and bold pedestrians who do not follow the street signals designed for them. Lee, an 11-year-old resident of New Haven, was fatally struck by a speeding Jetta that hit her and threw her into the air. Rainof was struck by a car at the intersection of York Street and South Frontage Road in late April.
Drivers can often be reckless and irresponsible after incidents, Piscitelli said. (The driver who hit Lee never stopped.)
A second-year medical student walking on Cedar Street on Monday afternoon blamed the traffic lights and signals as potential sources of accidents.
“First and foremost, there are no walking signs for civilians — this is especially dangerous for patients who come out of the hospital on the Cedar and York crossing,” the student said. “The time of transition between red and yellow lights is too quick. This doesn’t allow for drivers to slow down sufficiently — lots of them prefer to run the light instead. Had the yellow been longer, Mila may not have been killed.”
Angoff said the loading docks and construction sites on the corner of York Street and Frontage Road may have contributed to Rainof’s death. Large trucks often obstruct pedestrians’ view of oncoming traffic, pedestrians in the area told the News earlier this year.
Petrini said the hospital also agreed to further additional safety improvements in light of the construction of the Smilow Cancer Hospital, which is scheduled for completion in winter 2009. These measures include a wider crosswalks, walk signals that count down the number of seconds left to cross, and a variable message board that will signal to motorists that pedestrians are ahead, Petrini said.
The New Haven Police Department has dispatched two units that will patrol certain busy intersections to slow down traffic and prohibit illegal drag racing on city streets, Petrini added.