University of Connecticut Implements System Allowing Campus Shuttle Buses to Give Verbal Warnings to Pedestrians

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1329547_26453257_03282012.jpgJust over a year ago, 20 year-old University of Connecticut student David Plamondon was killed when a campus shuttle bus struck him as he was crossing an intersection. The accident occurred on campus at about 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Emergency responders pronounced Plamondon dead at the scene.

The driver of the shuttle bus was a student, 22 year-old Lukasz Gilewski. Most of the drivers in UConn’s 13-bus campus shuttle system are students. In order to work as a driver, they must obtain a commercial driver’s license and complete thirty hours of behind-the-wheel training. Gilewski reportedly waved to another bus driver just before hitting Plamondon. Gilewski was charged with negligent vehicular homicide and failing to yield to a pedestrian. He pleaded nolo contendere to negligent homicide in early March. He received a six-month suspended prison sentence and will serve two years of probation.

In the aftermath of the accident, students and administrators reviewed safety issues for pedestrians on the UConn campus. The head of the University’s Department of Transportation Services, Janet Freniere, formed a committee to review pedestrian safety during the fall semester. They found that motor vehicles, including shuttle buses, presented a danger to pedestrians on campus, along with scooters, bicycles, and skateboards.

UConn installed a system of speakers on all of its shuttle buses intended to warn pedestrians when the buses are turning corners. Freniere acknowledged that the system came in response to Plamondon’s death, and a university spokesman confirmed this in a statement to the media. The system, known as “Safe Turn Alert,” plays a verbal message, “Pedestrians, bus is turning,” when the bus’ wheels turn a certain degree. The system also reportedly reminds drivers to look both ways.

The school started using the system on Monday, March 19. Students have said that the system, while initially startling, helps at times when visibility is low and the buses are difficult to see. Drivers have reportedly said that they have seen pedestrians step back out of the street when they hear the warning. Plamondon’s brother, Mitchel, however, told the UConn student newspaper that he supports the university taking action but thinks the system places the burden on the pedestrian rather than the bus driver.