ON-AIR: C.A.T.S. one year later, are we safer?

By Tim McCarthy

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of University freshman Sarah Channick, who was struck and killed by an MTD bus. Immediately following this accident the Campus Area Transportation Study, also known as CATS, released a number of goals aimed at making campus safer. Nina Gazanfari, who was a friend of Channick’s, was made an advisory member of CATS. She says education and awareness are the best tools to reduce the amount of accidents on campus.

“I think everyone just needs to watch out for each other. Like I see a lot of kids pulling at each others sleeves and just look out for like even crossing the bike paths and stuff.”

CATS is comprised of many different local departments, including the MTD, Champaign and Urbana city councils, police, and university students. It was created after doctoral student Carolyn Jeffers was also killed by an MTD bus on October 27th of 2004.

In the past year, CATS has put many changes into effect, including improved crosswalk paintings, rerouting of bus routes, lowering speed limits around campus, adding an audible beeping sound when buses turn, and placing stop signs at intersections students deemed dangerous – such as the corner of 6th and Chalmers where Channick was killed. University of Illinois Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Christensen says the campus has seen a visible reduction in accidents over the last year. He says campus police have stepped up education efforts to improve driver and pedestrian awareness.

“Our goal is to change the behavior so people walk and ride and drive in a safe manner. And if we can do that with a warning ticket, that’s fantastic.”

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Christensen says all students are encouraged to drive, bike, and walk defensively while traveling through campus, and to be careful of letting devices such as iPods and cell phones distract them.