When most students go to the library to study, they do not expect to be faced with a life-threatening situation, but for freshman exercise science major Aaron Milton, this is exactly what happened. Just after 9 p.m. on Oct. 23, as he was walking across the crosswalk on Hanna Avenue near Cravens Hall, he was suddenly struck by a car.
Milton said that he saw the car out of the corner of his eye just before he was hit and tried to get out of the way. Despite this, Milton was still struck by the driver. Milton said that he did not feel the impact at first because of the adrenaline that was coursing through him.
“My initial reaction was that my mind was flooded with thoughts like: ‘What just happened? How did this happen? Why me?’” he said. “I felt fine, but it was just that I was in a lot of shock and I never thought it would happen to me.”
Immediately after the accident, Milton said the driver stopped and got out of the car and asked if he was all right. According to the accident report filed by campus police, the driver said that he did not see Milton crossing the street until Milton had been hit.
Milton said that 15 minutes after the accident he went to the hospital. At that point, he said, the scariest part of what had happened to him was who was going to pay for the hospital bill.
“I didn’t have any health insurance, so that was the scariest part for me,” Milton said “Because obviously no health insurance equals a lot of money.”
Milton said that he was able to get temporary health insurance through the police. As a result of the incident, Milton said, both of his legs were bruised and his left calf muscle was partially torn. Despite these injuries, he did not break any bones and his recovery process has been fast.
“The first week was a little rough,” Milton said. “I was limping and it hurt. I had bruises on my legs and not even on the leg that got hit—it was my opposite leg. My right leg had bruises everywhere. My left leg had a bruise on my knee…[and] it hurt to walk for a little bit.”
In situations like this, UIndy police officers have procedures that they have to follow, according to Campus Police Chief David Selby. The first priority, Selby said, is the safety of the victim.
“If an individual is hit, then we are going to arrive on the scene, secure the scene and call an ambulance to get the person the help they need,” Selby said. “Then we have to do the accident report. And if there is some gross negligence somewhere along the line, we forward that to the [Marion County] Prosecutor’s Office.”
Selby said that accidents like Milton’s rarely happen and he thinks that a situation like this has happened only twice in the past five years. He also said that the university has not had a serious accident involving a pedestrian on campus.
“I have to be honest with you that I am very concerned about students crossing the street there [on Hanna Avenue],” Selby said. “If you just take some time and stop and watch, you’ll find out that they’re on their cell phone or listening to music or they’re talking. Students are crossing the street thinking that all of the cars would stop, but that is not the law. The law reads differently than that.”
The law, according to Selby, does not immediately assume that pedestrians always have the right of way, despite popular thought. He said that because of this, a driver may not always be held responsible for an accident.
“I know that students have come in saying that pedestrians always have the right of way and that is not true,” Selby said. “The way the law reads is that if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, the car is obligated to stop. But a pedestrian cannot enter the crosswalk unless cars are stopped. So whose fault is it if someone gets hit in a crosswalk? It [the situation] becomes a difficult thing and of course we don’t want anyone hurt.”
Milton said that the Counseling Center, along with Residence Life staff, have offered him support. Resident Assistants at his dorm, Warren Hall, and the Resident Director contacted him as well.
“My RD, Lauren, she called me and she asked if there was anybody that I needed to communicate to about what happened,” Milton said. “She also told me that if I ever needed anything, she was there to support me.”
In light of Milton’s accident and other incidents on campus, UIndy has had more concerns about students crossing both Hanna Avenue and Shelby Street, according to Selby. He said that the university is forming a committee to look into safety tips and that they plan to have the tips come out monthly. The university also has been in contact with their insurance companies in order to make a plan for Shelby Street.
“We are going to be hanging some signs reminding students about crossing the street,” Selby said. “We are going to have the Red Line [transportation system] coming in, so until we get some more crosswalks and some more lights, we are going to have to remind students to be careful crossing the street.”
Selby said he also would eventually like to see the committee partner with the Department of Theatre to make short videos with the tips, to make them relatable to the students.
Milton said that he hopes people take a note of what happened to him and use it to be more cautious while crossing the street, regardless of whether or not there is a crosswalk.
“Even if you do have the right of way, some people will either be texting while driving or they’re crazy,” Milton said. “Things might not always happen the way you think they would. Just be more cautious. You have to be aware of what’s around you as well as anything else. You never think it’s going to happen to you until it happens to somebody you know, and then it’s like, ‘Oh, crap,’ and then you get scared.”
Selby said that the most important thing for students to do while crossing the street is to pay attention to the traffic. The best scenario for students, Selby said, is to go to a traffic light and cross at the crosswalk there, where there are it has signals for pedestrians to use.
“Students come to our campus and they’re busy,” Selby said. “Like the rest of us, they are in between meetings and things that they are doing. They are looking at their phone and it’s just reminding them that they have to be very careful. We don’t want those types of things happening on our campus.”
Selby said that he also hopes students learn from this incident how important being educated on this issue is and how students need to start taking more responsibility for their own safety.
“Back when I went to college. . . we didn’t have the police department sending us mass emails and things like that,” Selby said. “Those are important, but we can’t forget that we have to be ready to handle situations that affect our own safety. We’ll [campus police] continue doing our jobs, but don’t forget that your best defense is yourself.”