MARYLAND

Authorities to crack down on Route 1 safety near UMD beginning Thursday night

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJLA) - At first glance, one probably wouldn't notice anything unusual about Route 1 near the University of Maryland. But ask anyone, and you'll quickly learn why it's a cause for concern around the popular College Park campus.

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"We definitely need to be a little safer. This is a really busy street," Rosy Shrestha, a student, told ABC7.

Even in broad daylight, people dodge cars as they jaywalk across Route 1 in the heart of College Park. In the late-night hours, students say the scene is a dangerous mix when you combine the busy street with speeding, distracted and sometimes drunk drivers.

In the last two weeks, two young people have been hit by cars here – GW student Carlos Pacanins died, and back in January, Maryland senior Cory Hubbard was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

In both cases, police believe the men had been drinking. And while, some students say the deaths are a reminder to always cross legally, others think jaywalking is no big deal.

Shalina Mukherjee says if you're sober, you can manage to do it safely:

"It's a relatively simple thing, you just cross when there are no cars."

However, she does think the city should add more crosswalks.

"This is a crisis -- we need action now,” said Action Campus Police Chief Dave Mitchell, who is advocating for a greater police presence, a focus on education, and for the State Highway Administration to make what he calls “swift and provisional actions.”

Meanwhile, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh wants modern crossing signals with countdowns and audio cues, as well as a barrier in the median.

The SHA has said it will study the road, a process that could take months. However, Mitchell states:

"We need it sooner than 18 months from now."

A Change.org petition to build a wall in front of the busiest bars here has gained more than 2,000 signatures, as well as the support of the father of one of the victims. Ralph Hubbard says he doesn’t want one more family to go through the heartache.

And student Elana Horowitz feels the same way:

"This is the fourth time this has occurred. This is not a fluke. Something needs to be done.

Pedestrians aren't exactly free of blame, either.

"People jaywalk all the time at late hours, and they're also intoxicated," said student Duncan Hawvermale. "At night they're kind of reckless."

Signage, crosswalks, and cracking down on jaywalkers are just part of the initiative that will begin on Thursday night and continue until Saturday.

Students say they appreciate the effort and that it is needed, but with so many students, they doubt it'll make a difference.

"There's too many students for them to control the population," said student Joe Harden. "I don't think students are going to pay more attention when they cross the street."

But there's no harm in pushing for the initiative to be a success, he added.

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