WMPD and partners launch event to spread the word on traffic safety
William & Mary Police recently announced that March 18–22 will be Traffic Awareness Week on campus. Awareness Week is part of a multi-year traffic safety campaign initiative with both on-campus and community partners, including the City of Williamsburg, Williamsburg Police, the W&M Bike Alliance, Sodexo, and the W&M Student Assembly.
“Student Assembly approached this fall about participating in this event,” said William & Mary Police Chief Deb Cheesebro. “We were able to be more thrilled with the students working with us on the important messages surrounding traffic safety.”
The idea for the campaign is an outgrowth of the traffic safety initiative launched last year by WMPD. This year’s effort, Cheesebro said, will focus on education and raising awareness with the help of a team of volunteers organized through the Student Assembly.
“What we hope for is this campaign, and its successors, will improve day-to-day traffic safety on and around campus long-term,” Cheesebro added. “Pedestrians, cyclists, drivers — few of them pay close enough attention, especially at crosswalks. Distraction is common. We want to remind everyone what good safety practices are and reduce the risk of accident in the process.”
Over the week, members of the campus and Williamsburg communities will see an increased presence — police and volunteer — at crosswalks, intersections, one-way roads and areas prone to speeding on or near campus.
There will also be a new WMPD portable radar speed signposted at various locations around campus. The sign will tell the drivers their current speed and serve as a reminder to the drivers to slow down and abide by the posted speed limit, Cheesebro said.
Safety Ambassadors — Those student volunteers — Will be dotted across campus at peak times providing safety brochures, reflective wrist bands, reflective tape for clothing, bike rear red reflectors and helmets, she noted.
“What you’ll also see is motorists and pedestrians being rewarded for safe practices — looking both ways before crossing the street, pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk, motorists stopping for pedestrians to cross, bikes yielding to moving traffic and cyclists with the legally required front light and back reflector on their bikes at night,” said Cheesebro, emphasizing that the thrust of the campaign is not about enforcement.
Police officers and volunteers will have a total of 2,000 vouchers redeemable at Chick-fil-A in Tribe Square, COSI (in Sadler Center) and Swem Aromas to hand out to people who have observed the following good safety practices.
Student Assembly President Brendan Boylan ’19 shared Cheesebro’s enthusiasm for the campaign.
“Under our administration, the Student Assembly has prioritized traffic and pedestrian safety as we explore ways to reduce incidents of pedestrians being struck by cars, as well as bringing in a greater sense of security for students while walking home late at night or going down the lesser-marked paths,” Boylan said.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, nearly 20 percent of fatal car accidents nationwide in 2017 involved pedestrians, bicyclists or other non-occupants. Big city or smaller town, traffic safety is important to the long-term well-being of a community.
“The Williamsburg Police Department welcomes the opportunity to partner with the WMPD and the campus community,” said Williamsburg Police Chief Sean Dunn. “We’ve noticed an increase in the frequency of auto-pedestrian accidents last semester and began a campaign to meet students where they are at risk along Jamestown and Richmond Road to increase awareness and offer reflective materials that could be hung on a jacket or book bag to help motorists see them, especially at night.”
“We were very pleased with how appreciative the students seemed to be with our commitment to their safety. I think this partnership with WMPD will prove to be a wonderful success, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to W&M student safety.”
The campaign will also include collaborative education and awareness events on March 18, 20 and 22 in the Sadler Center and on the Sadler Terrace with Student Assembly, WMPD, the W&M Bike Alliance and WPD. WMPD and WPD will each provide a cart with goggles so students can test their driving abilities while under the simulated effects of either alcohol or marijuana. WMPD purchased simulated effects of marijuana education materials and equipment for this and later events, Cheesebro said.
During the Sadler Center events, students who sign a Traffic Safety Pledge get a chance to enter a drawing for gift cards and other prizes. Prizes will include bike helmets provided by the W&M Bike Alliance; high-visibility T-shirts, sweatshirts and ball caps; custom traffic safety week T-shirts; and a WaWa gift card, among other items.
“This initiative is designed to highlight our ongoing commitment to student safety,” said Dunn. “We hope students and staff use this as an opportunity to engage with our officers to strengthen our relationship and build greater trust.”
Cheesebro said she hopes the safety campaign will also draw attention to the broader collaborative efforts of the Student Assembly, WMPD, W&M University officials, WPD and City of Williamsburg officials to increase pedestrian, bike and vehicle safety on and around campus.
Those efforts include increased lighting at College Corner, conversion of high pressure sodium fixtures to LEDs, new bike lanes on Monticello and Richmond Road as part of the Midtown Row development, new flashing light / automated signal crosswalks on Jamestown Road near the Campus Center and on Richmond Road near Sorority Court as well as the Monticello Multi-Use Trail, construction for which is scheduled to begin this fall.
“We thank the city for doing its due diligence in bringing in more LED lighting in that effort, and we are thrilled to partner with the William & Mary Administration Police Department and the City of Williamsburg to bring in more flashing beacons and other much-needed infrastructure improvements that will ensure safety and security for drivers and pedestrians alike,” said Boylan.
Working together can make the difference and reduce the risk of injury or death to traffic-related accidents, Cheesebro said.
“We all want the same thing — for the people to be safe and as our campaign slogan states, ‘Stay alert, don’t get hurt!’”