Thursday night, a car hit a pedestrian on campus on Hardy Road, near the new Kent Sills Band Hall on the south side of Mississippi State University’s campus. The pedestrian, who wishes to remain anonymous, was leaving State Singers’ practice at about 7:45 p.m. when the accident occurred.
An eyewitness who wishes to remain anonymous was walking out of the building with a choir member when they saw their friend at the crosswalk. The witness said she noticed the student looking as he was crossing the street and confirmed the pedestrian was not looking at his phone.
“Then I saw a car just barrel into him, and it was horrifying,” said the witness, who is friends with the pedestrian.
The witness said she saw her friend fly through the air as the car did not stop. He rolled off the vehicle and into the middle of the road. Then the driver, shocked, got out of the car and walked over to the sidewalk because he was disoriented.
Briana Taylor, a senior aerospace engineering major, is a State Singer like the pedestrian. She recounted what she and other choir members heard because they did not see the accident occur.
“I heard a big, loud thud; we all turned around and looked and saw that someone had been run over,” Taylor said.
Taylor and a couple of choir members ran to aid the pedestrian. A car driving by on the opposite side of the road stopped to assist, too. First, Taylor said the students stabilized the pedestrian’s head to protect him from further injuries while they called 911.
Even though only a few people saw the crash, as more members exited the band hall, they rushed to assist the pedestrian. Some students grabbed traffic cones to block off the area and direct traffic because they were waiting on an ambulance to pick up the student who was hit. In addition, Taylor and other students tried to calm the driver who hit the pedestrian and make sure he was not injured.
Taylor measured the distance the pedestrian traveled as the car hit him, and it was an astounding 52 feet.
The police arrived at the scene first and went to examine the pedestrian and calm the driver. Then the Oktibbeha County Hospital EMTs arrived in an ambulance and took the pedestrian to the emergency room.
The State Singers’ choir director called the student’s parents, and the anonymous eyewitness said she and several other choir members went to the hospital for moral support and waited with their friend until the doctors discharged him later that night.
Thankfully, the pedestrian did not have any broken bones, but he is pretty bruised, according to Taylor.
Thursday night, Colton Hall, a graduate engineering student, along with Taylor and the anonymous witness penned a change.org petition that urged MSU to improve the safety hazards on Hardy Road by adding speed bumps, signs with blinking lights, better street lighting, speed limit signs and lights on the crosswalk.
According to a document from the MSU Management of Traffic and Parking, the responsibility of the management services is to manage parking and traffic at the university. Taylor emphasized this responsibility and said it further proved her need to write the petition.
Early Friday morning, MSU added a three-way stop on Hardy Road and a sign with blinking lights where the crosswalk is located. The students who started the petition said they are grateful for how quickly the university implemented those changes. Still, the students urge the university to add more speed limit signs, speed bumps and better lighting around the crosswalk.
The Capital Improvement Fee would fund the students’ plan, according to the petition and Taylor. Furthermore, the Capital Improvement Fee is partly how the university finances crosswalks and other roadwork needs.
Also, on Friday, MSU launched a pre-planned initiative on social media for Pedestrian Safety Month called “Look Up, Look Out,” aimed to alert both drivers and pedestrians to use the crosswalks carefully.
The anonymous eyewitness said before the university posted to social media, MSU President Mark Keenum emailed the witness and informed her of the initiative. According to Keenum, the university already planned to launch the initiative this month to alert drivers, pedestrians and bicyclers to be more aware of crossing the street during Pedestrian Safety Month.
According to a press release statement from MSU’s Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter, the university administration planned and approved the campaign before the student was hit on Hardy Road Thursday night. However, the university still approved the campaign to launch on Oct. 1 and posted an infographic on social media platforms that morning.
Even though Keenum told the student about the “Look Up, Look Out" initiative, the witness said she thought the first post of the campaign was not appropriate due to the accident that had just occurred the night before the initiative.
“I believe that while the intention behind that infographic and the entire initiative is to keep our campus safe, I thought that particular post … was insensitive and in poor taste considering the events of (Thursday) night,” the witness said.
Immediately, the Instagram post started receiving masses of comments claiming MSU’s infographic to be “poorly timed” and seeming “victim blaming,” as the first post was aimed at pedestrians to get off their phones and look up as they are using the crosswalks.
The student who was hit on Hardy Road Thursday night added his experience to the comments.
“As someone who was hit last night using the crosswalk, not on my phone … this is sad to see,” the pedestrian wrote.
Instagram user @ronst3r._ expressed their disbelief in the comment section.
“I refuse to believe that you all thought this was an appropriate statement to make. This is extremely insensitive. Hold people accountable instead of shifting the blame on the blameless,” they commented.
So far, the original Instagram post has amassed 271 comments, with a majority of comments calling out the lack of sensitivity the commenters thought MSU had by posting the infographic after a student was hit in the crosswalk on campus the night before.
“In that moment, perhaps a more helpful message to spread at that time was to call to attention the actions of the driver first,” the witness said.
After the original Pedestrian Safety Month post, MSU added another post to their social media platforms that called attention to drivers’ safety and urged them to “look up and look out,” too.
The pedestrian's friends acknowledged the second safety graphic and said they think the university should have posted the second graphic first since a driver had just hit a pedestrian the night before.
State Singer Taylor noted how grateful she, the pedestrian who was hit and other choir members are for the attention the accident is getting. She wants it to further enact change at the university so accidents do not occur frequently. The students said they are glad to see the new implementations on Hardy Road but still desire the other actions in the petition.
MSU concluded its press release statement by saying the university will continue to implement changes on campus as needed and confirmed the addition of safety measures on Hardy Road.
“At MSU President Mark Keenum’s direction early today, additional stops signs and speed bumps are being installed, and overall traffic and pedestrian rule enforcement is being reviewed. We will continue to seek ways to make a safe MSU campus even safer moving forward.”