January accident raises safety concerns
On the evening of Jan. 20, two female students walked through a poorly-lit crosswalk on Liberty University’s campus, which crosses the U.S. Route 460 on-ramp. They were hit by a vehicle turning onto the ramp, resulting in both students being hospitalized for treatment of minor injuries.
Due to increasing foot traffic by students, crosswalk safety is a concern for both pedestrians and drivers.
Dan Deter, vice president of major construction for Liberty University, said they are constantly reevaluating safety issues on campus when they get reports of dark areas.
“It’s not uncommon for us to get a building done and then a month down the road, we get a call from housing or LUPD or one of the other monitoring agencies and they say, ‘There is a dark area over here,’ and we will take care of that,” Deter said.
Because many of Liberty’s roads are privatized, some of the city of Lynchburg’s regulations on street light installation does not apply when the Planning and Construction Department builds new roads and installs street lights around campus.
“We try to look at it from a campus safety and security stand point, (whereas) the city doesn’t have that same protocol,” Deter said. “They are looking more for vehicular safety (whereas) we are looking for more pedestrian safety.”
In reference to the recent accident at the 460 on-ramp, Deter said they will look at lights or vehicle slow-down methods, but the pedestrians have to take priorities over the vehicles.
“(President Jerry Falwell) would fully support if I were to go down to him and ask for ‘x’ amount of money for street lights. He would sign off on it,” Deter said.
Despite work being done to prevent dark, unsafe spots around campus, low-lit areas still exist. According to Deter, some of the detriments of having built so much on campus over the last eight years are the areas in between new buildings that might fall through the cracks.
“LUPD is a good source, and I have four to five people on my own staff that one of their directives is to let me know if there are areas that are dark,” Deter said. “I want to know if there are areas that are unsafe for students.”
During the fall 2018 semester, Deter was contacted by the office of Residence Life, requesting that dark areas around Dorm 17 on the Hill would be evaluated and fixed. After assessing the issue, Deter and his team provided more lighting and safety to the area.
“We are always looking for feedback if there are areas that we don’t see that the student body sees,” Deter said.