By Aimee DeGroat, Staff Writer
Confession: Two weeks ago I stepped in wet cement…in high heels. I was headed down Main Street and, I will admit, a little too engrossed scrolling through my Facebook feed. I was oblivious to the workmen finishing up the job in their bright yellow vests and hardhats, the stalled traffic around the work area, and the clouds of debris pluming around me. I sneezed a little at the dust, laughed at a meme, and felt my toe slide into the cool, gushy mush. I looked around; no one saw me. I looked down and saw another print, bigger than mine, and felt reassured. “Huzzah!” I thought, “I am not the only one who missed this, really the area should have been marked off better.” Clearly, neon striped sawhorses, bright orange traffic cones, and florescent tape were not enough of an indication that one should go around.
The reason for the construction was to install a new set of solar-powered crosswalk lights that were donated to the town of Farmington by the Maine Department of Transportation. The parking spaces in front of Dunkin Donuts are often full and the parked vehicles that line Main Street block the view of oncoming traffic. The flashing lights on the new crosswalk posts are tall enough that drivers can be aware of a street-crosser before they pop out from behind a pickup like a jack-in-the-box. Simply push the button and the lights will blink to indicate crossing, alerting drivers to stop and be more aware.
Although the crosswalk lights will undoubtedly assist in keeping people safe, serious problems still remain. “Students walk out in the road without pushing [the] button,” said Hillary Janelle, UMF student. “I wish that they would understand that it is difficult to see them sometimes, and that they should respect the crosswalks and also the drivers. And maybe look up from their cellphones every now and then, just to make sure they’re not stepping out in front of a moving vehicle.”
In fact, in 2009, that is exactly what happened when a 19 year old was talking on her cell phone, stepped out in front of traffic on Main Street, and was hit by a truck. Though severely rattled, both the driver and the young lady who got hit were okay.
Former student Autumn Greenleaf also shared her opinion on the crosswalk issues and new crosswalk lights, enthusiastically urging others to use the tool in the correct way.
“Please just press the freaking button,” she said. “It helps us drivers know that we need to slow down. Do you want to die today? I didn’t think so. Maybe if we put a “Do Not Push This Button” sign right above the button [then] that would lead you to push it.”
Greenleaf, a first-rate singer with consistently perfect lipstick, flipped her blond tresses back from her shoulder, flashed a brilliant smile and launched into a rousing rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” at the top of her lungs. Apparently, she is as emphatic about traffic safety as she is about today’s top hits.
UMF student Sara Turner shares similar views as Greenleaf and Janelle, explaining the situation as a ‘two way street.’
“As a driver and a student, I can see both sides,” said Turner. “I feel like if students were better about crossing the road, motorist would have a better respect for students in crosswalks. At the same time I also think motorists need to be cautious [of] students trying to cross the road.”
Sergeant Brock Caton, Chief of UMF Campus Police, said that the old rules we learned as kids still apply: “Look both ways before you step out into the street, use the light, and don’t just run across,” said Caton. Even if you use a crosswalk you are still “required to give vehicle traffic adequate time to stop,” Caton said further. One of the biggest dangers that his department witnesses, is when students are texting and walking while crossing the street. If they see this behavior, Campus Police will educate students on crossing the street safely.
Sanding the hardened cement off my black heels was not an easy task. I made a vow to myself to put away my phone and be more aware of my surroundings while I am walking down the street. Though heels can be replaced, I cannot, and if you happen to see a footprint in the concrete near the post office – it wasn’t me.