A report published by the City of Charlotte shows that the intersections around UNC Charlotte are statistically some of the most hazardous in the city. Now, UNC Charlotte students and local residents are demanding answers from local leaders. The Niner Times has obtained over fifty complaints that have been filed addressing the persistent problems with the roads and intersections both on and off campus.
The safety concerns from local residents directly affect the thousands of students that attend UNC Charlotte. Campus concerns submitted to the City of Charlotte regard speeding and pedestrian safety. Off campus, the concern is even higher as students have to cross major roadways like University City Boulevard, North Tryon Street and Mallard Creek Church Road to get to campus each and every day.
Some concerns stem from a string of recent accidents. Nearly an hour into the new year, University City had already seen its first traffic fatality. On Jan. 1, a man walking on North Tryon Street was hit by multiple vehicles. After the first impact, the man was thrown 50 feet; the vehicle fled the scene. Another vehicle hit the man and he was thrown an additional 60 feet. The third and final vehicle hit the man, dragging him over a thousand feet. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and other emergency responders rushed to the scene; however, the man was pronounced dead upon arrival. On Jan. 16, another pedestrian was hit on Mallard Creek Church Road and rushed to the hospital.
These recent accidents brought light to the hazardous intersections that directly surround UNC Charlotte. According to Charlotte’s High Accident Location List, four local intersections are among the most dangerous in the entire city. The most dangerous intersection in Charlotte is at Reagan Drive and Tom Hunter Road. This intersection has been reviewed by the NC Department of Transportation who developed an all-way stop plan to remediate the situation. However, other intersections, like the one at John Kirk Drive and University City Boulevard, have had at least 144 accidents in the past three years and there are no plans to change or fix the intersections. W.T. Harris and North Tryon Street as well as North Tryon Street and University Pointe Drive are also local intersections on the High Accident Location List.
In public safety complaints released by the City of Charlotte, residents and students brought various concerns to the attention of the City of Charlotte for the roads on and directly surrounding UNC Charlotte. One resident said, “The signaling pedestrian crossing does not work, [making it] very dangerous to cross the road,” while another resident said, “I can’t cross the street from my parking lot without almost getting hit. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Very dangerous. Plus, drivers are always speeding in this area.” In total, there are over 22 complaints specifically addressing pedestrian safety in recent months.
Other complaints focused on issues such as speeding or traffic lights. One resident said “drivers consistently run red lights at this intersection” and noted that “speeding is a serious problem.”
UNC Charlotte’s Police Department addressed the concerns. Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Huffman said in a statement to the Niner Times, “Students can aid the police department in addressing these issues by reporting their traffic concerns directly to us. If there is a particular area where violations are frequently occurring, we want to know about it. Officers can be directed to increase patrols and enforcement activity in those areas to address violations.”
Huffman added, “The UNC Charlotte Police Department takes the safety of both pedestrians and motorists very seriously. Those who operate vehicles on campus must abide by state traffic laws. In order to ensure compliance with those laws and maximize safety for the campus community, officers conduct traffic stops on motorists who commit violations of the law. Officers utilize directed and saturated patrols to target high traffic areas where violations are likely to occur. Those caught violating traffic laws may face University sanctions, state citations or even arrest depending upon the severity of the offense.”
The City of Charlotte is also trying to address the problem with a new program called Vision Zero which was started in Sweden in 1997. It is a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries while increasing safety, health and mobility for all. Vision Zero focuses on how people naturally behave. According to the program’s mission statement, people make mistakes but mistakes should not be fatal.
Vision Zero explains that “over the past ten years, our city has seen explosive population growth, adding close to 200,000 more drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to our streets, paths and intersections. Charlotte has responded by creating a variety of safe ways for people to move around the city and connect with each other – we’ve upgraded intersections, added more bike lanes and built additional sidewalks – as we continue to work towards the best possible transportation and pedestrian safety systems for our growing city.”
Crashes and fatalities not only take a toll on human life, but also on the city’s capital, affecting loved ones, health care facilities, businesses and many other areas of our community.
That’s why Charlotte is renewing its commitment to safer streets in 2019 with the creation of Vision Zero, an action plan designed to reduce crashes and eliminate traffic-related deaths and severe injuries by 2030. Why? Because even one traffic-related death is too many.