Recent car accident involving K-State student serves as a warning to drivers

A student looks both ways before walking across the pedestrian crossing on Manhattan Avenue east of campus early Thursday evening. RCPD is hoping to reduce accidents with new safety initiatives. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Waking up last Thursday, the only thing on Camryn Claassen’s mind was a German Literature midterm.

Claassen, a junior in psychology, set off toward campus after eating a quick breakfast with her roommate. She rode her bike through the residential neighborhoods just east of Manhattan Avenue and arrived at Eisenhower Hall, prepared to take her midterm and head home.

Every day, she returned to her apartment via Thurston Street, which she said is a simple commute that is trouble free — until that day.

As she cruised down Fifth Street then crossed Vattier Street, a car crossed at the same time.

The car hit Claassen on the right side of her body and she fell onto her left arm, breaking her hand in two places.

Including Claassen, there have been 17 pedestrian-related accidents this year so far. Only five of them have occurred west of Manhattan Avenue.

Capt. Richard Fink of the Riley County Police Department said the majority of pedestrian-involved accidents occur east of Manhattan Avenue because they occur along commonly preferred routes.

Fink said the biggest reason for preventable accidents is simply lack of attention. Any accident that “occurs on a public roadway and is not caused by weather or animal related factors” is considered a preventable-accident by RCPD.

“Thousands of vehicles pass through these areas everyday without any problem,” Fink said. “The accidents happen when a driver makes an error in one of these locations.”

In the third quarter of 2018, there have been 243 preventable accidents and Fink said 75 of those resulted from inattention.

Claassen said she learned her lesson about staying attentive during her commute the hard way. She said she feels many other college students forget they aren’t invincible.

“I never thought like ‘I’m not gonna get hit by a car on my bike,’ so when I ride around I’m as cautious as I can be, but you know, that morning I didn’t wake up and think ‘It’s gonna be dangerous out there today’,” Claassen said.

After breaking her hand in the accident last week, Claassen was excused from class through the Office of Student Life. Student Life reached out to her professors and verified the accident, which Claassen said made the process much easier.

Every semester, Heather Reed, assistant vice president and senior associate dean of student life, estimated there are around a dozen reported accidents to the Office of Student Life.

With the aim of preventing accidents similar to Claassen’s, RCPD recently launched the second edition of the Accident Reduction Citation. The original rendition of the program collaborated with Kansas State researchers to analyze crash data as well as discern what traffic violations the community expected the police department to enforce.

The top five causes of such accidents were identical to the violations the community felt needed to be emphasized.

This second edition, implemented on Aug. 28, allows for RCPD Officers to plan operations that designate special enforcement areas, which are announced via local news and social media. To date, 10 operations have been completed.

With this change in enforcement of traffic regulation the RCPD hopes they can lower the number of preventable accidents, Fink said.

“Pay attention,” Claassen said. “Don’t just blow through those traffic signs because you think it’s not busy because that is when you will hit someone. Get off your phone. Whatever text you got, it can wait because it is not more important than someone’s life.”