Several bright yellow fliers taped on boards across campus earlier this month greeted students with dire news, although many have since been covered or removed.
“Third pedestrian killed in Downtown New Haven,” the fliers blazed in capital letters. “How safe are the streets surrounding Yale?”
The flier’s anonymous creators pleaded for students to lobby Yale officials and not “wait for the next classmate to be hurt or killed.”
The fliers have popped up at a time when Yale officials themselves are researching whether they should change how they approach campus traffic policy. If Yale officials determine that they need to write such a traffic safety policy, the University Safety Committee, an advisory board to University officers, has said it could review a draft as early as December.
“All of us agreed that our time is best served by focusing on getting things done, not merely talking,” Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said in a recent interview.
On the fliers is a time line of various traffic accidents around campus, including the death of a Hamden resident Aug. 5 due to a van crash, the July 2008 death of Mila Rainof MED ’08 and the May 2006 death of Alexander Capelluto ’08 about two-thirds of a mile from the Yale Bowl.
Although it is unclear whether students on campus reacted to — or even saw — the fliers, a half-dozen students interviewed said they were surprised and disgusted by the flier’s statistics.
“That’s terrifying,” Travis Gidado ’12 said of the flier. “People dying arbitrarily like that? It’s a problem that should be addressed by any undergraduate institution.”
Several students have approached University officials over the last year. In July 2008, 16 Yale students and alumni signed a letter to Levin asking for a “high-level traffic safety commission” to fix problems with on-campus traffic. In response, Levin arranged a traffic meeting to be held two months later, in November, between the group members and officials.
Four months after the meeting, the group, which is affiliated with the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition, submitted a report to Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65. The group highlighted existing University programs on traffic safety and provided a list of recommendations for improvement — from a “no-tolerance” policy on cell phone use in cars to the requirement that Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti send campuswide e-mails about traffic incidents.
The group’s report was also distributed last spring to Mayor John DeStefano Jr., and to all undergraduate students through the Yale College Council. Yale and city officials, as well as some students, met in May to discuss which of the over 25 recommendations — which cover topics from enforcement and education to physical improvements — could be implemented in the near future.
Although meeting attendees said they plan on meeting again this fall, some traffic safety projects are already in the works.
Yale has placed several “yield to pedestrian” signs across campus. But other recommendations, including creating plans for traffic safety education for new students, are now being pursued in response to the meetings and the report, Morand said.
For instance, to pursue one of the report’s recommendations, Environmental Health and Safety Director Peter Reinhardt e-mailed the Yale Medical Area Traffic Safety Group about the possibility of an official University traffic safety policy and the inclusion of a car cell phone use ban. He asked in the August e-mail for suggestions as to what Yale students, faculty and staff might like to change about campus traffic safety. (He received responses from two associate professors, according to the group’s panlist archives.)
Reinhardt said in an interview that he is “collecting ideas” for the policy and will compare them to the official automobile safety regulations. The current automobile policies, available on the Finance Department Web site, list eight pages of rules that only apply to drivers of University-owned or rented vehicles. But the March traffic safety report recommends rules for all vehicles that visit campus.
Still, Reinhardt added that he is researching what the traffic safety policy might say. Although he said it is too early to determine when a draft will be written, if at all, the wheels are in motion for possible traffic safety reform.