Two weeks after being hit by a car at the intersection of College and North Frontage streets, the Yale graduate student whose accident brought the issue of pedestrian safety into the public eye is going back home.
Lubna Shamsi EPH ’07 will be discharged from University Health Services today after undergoing reconstructive surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The accident motivated her close friend and fellow public health student Anant Shah EPH ’07 to circulate a petition calling for the addition of traffic lights and walk signals at the intersection.
The petition calls for, among other things, installing walk signals on every corner of the intersection, as well as increasing the time allowed for pedestrians to cross. Though the petition was only put online Tuesday morning, Shah said it has already garnered a wide response. By 3:45 in the afternoon there were just shy of 200 signatures on the petition, he said.
Shamsi said she has no recollection of the car crash that knocked her unconscious on Oct. 3 and left her with two weak knees, a broken collarbone and a long recovery process. While she has not spoken to the driver since the accident, she said, hospital officials told her the driver might have had a medical emergency on the road.
While Shah’s petition focuses specifically on the intersection at which the accident occurred, he said he thinks city officials should focus on improving safety all over the downtown area, not just at one intersection.
“[Shamsi’s] accident is unfortunately and tragically one part of a larger pedestrian safety issue,” he said.
Yale Police Department Lt. Michael Patten said he agrees that pedestrian safety is a city-wide issue. But while he said he does not know who was at fault in the Oct. 3 accident, he said many accidents occur each year because of pedestrian negligence.
“Many students, often in a rush or distracted, disregard walking signals that are installed for their safety,” he said.
During her stay at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Shamsi said, nurses would often joke about how many Yale students get hit by cars after ignoring street signals.
But she said that students are not always to blame.
“[The nurses would] joke about how Yale students are always jumping in front of cars, but these cars are always running yellows and reds,” she said.
New Haven city officials were not available for comment Tuesday night, but the television channel WTNH reported yesterday that the city’s traffic engineer said walk lights were in the process of being installed on the intersection.
Although his petition focuses on city government action, Shah said he also thinks the University has a key role to play in lobbying for improved pedestrian safety.
“It definitely has a role in leveraging leadership,” he said.
After she is released from University Health Services today, Shamsi will slowly make the transition back to Yale life with the help of some of her family members. Her sister Umza said she will aid her sister as she gets her strength back, helping with the day-to-day tasks that her sister can no longer perform, like blow-drying hair.
“She’ll be recovering for the next couple of months,” she said. “I’ll basically be her arms and legs, doing what it takes to take care of someone.”
Shamsi is in the last semester of her master’s program in epidemiology and public health. She said she is itching to get back to work, but acknowledged that she faces an acute series of physical challenges.
Though by no means happy a car hit her, Shamsi said, she is glad that her story might lead to eventual change.
“I know this sounds cheesy, but if we can raise a little bit of awareness, then that’s a good thing,” she said.