It is something many students at Durham College (DC) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) do without thinking – walk across Simcoe Street to visit Campus Corners. The thought of danger might not even cross a student’s mind.
Corey Lakshmanaswamy, 20, knows this first-hand. The first-year journalism student walked across Simcoe Street just after 3 p.m. on Nov. 14. Out of nowhere, he heard what he describes as what sounded like a bomb, over the music of 50 Cent blaring on his headphones.
“I was going to get lunch from Subway, listening to my music and I remember hearing a loud bang … I didn’t know if I was hearing it in my music or not,” he says.
What Lakshmanaswamy heard was the sound of a collision between a car and a pedestrian.
Rhyss Glenfield, a 19-year-old UOIT student in the Gaming Development and Entrepreneurship program, was killed at the intersection of Simcoe Street and Conlin Road.
According to Durham Region Police Service’s (DRPS) crime mapping tool, there have been four incidents at that intersection in the past six months: two hit and runs and two motor vehicle collisions, including the accident which resulted in Glenfield’s death.
The intersection continues to see issues with safety.
Samson Chung, part-time professor in the School of Business, IT & Management at Durham College, recently tweeted @DRPS after nearly being hit while crossing.
He received no response from the DRPS Twitter account and says he, along with other colleagues, have reached out before with concerns about the intersection.
“I’ve been reaching out to DRPS for the last six years,” says Chung. “Every day as I cross here at Conlin, I always see danger.”
Chung says he was heading toward the Campus Corners building on Nov. 26, when the walk signal turned and he began crossing. As he was crossing, a woman in a vehicle began making a right turn, coming up on him fast.
He says he tried to make eye contact with the woman as she got closer, but she didn’t notice him.
Chung was forced to step back to avoid being hit and says he was “right by her passenger door” when she passed him. He says the woman “apologized” with hand motions before driving off.
He says, “At least she didn’t give me the finger.”
Since Glenfield’s death, Oshawa councillors voted in favour of creating a community safety zone surrounding the DC and UOIT campus.
Sue McGovern, Vice President of External Affairs and Advancement at UOIT, has been working with the city of Oshawa and the Region of Durham to make the areas around the campus safer for students.
The City of Oshawa is responsible for Conlin Road whereas the Region of Durham is responsible for Simcoe Street North and they are working together to ensure safety measures are in place to keep students safe, says McGovern.
Penalties will be doubled for anyone who speeds within the designated area.
Const. George Tudos of the DRPS says he sees the decision to make the campus a safety zone as a step in the right direction.
“Anything put in place to prevent an event like the one that happened would be positive,” he says. Tudos also said if the safety zone is successful, he would like to see it implemented in “other places” to prevent any more accidents.
It isn’t just drivers who need to be aware of road safety measures. Tudos says pedestrians also have a role to play in keeping themselves safe.
“In this case, I don’t feel this person [Rhyss Glenfield] was in the wrong,” says Tudos. “In other cases, people are crossing when they aren’t supposed to be, they’re wearing dark clothes, they’re darting across roads, they’re not being safe. It’s a shared responsibility, we don’t want to blame the drivers or the people crossing.”
The campus safety zone covers Conlin Road, Bridle Road and Oshawa Creek, east of Simcoe Street North and the Oshawa Creek and Founders Drive, west of Simcoe Street North, according to the Durham Region website.
According to 2015 statistics from the 2017-2019 Traffic Services Branch Roadway Safety Strategy, one motor vehicle collision happens every 48 minutes. It also reports one person is injured every five hours in a collision on Durham Region’s roads.
Pedestrians and drivers both need to look both ways. Road safety is a two-way street.
“A very good saying is, We should all share the road,” says Chung. “As a pedestrian, you should pay attention so you don’t get hit. However, as a driver, you should also be paying attention so that you don’t hit anyone.”
McGovern’s work on road safety has contributed to the new community safety zone. She says what is needed is a sign to let drivers know they are entering a school zone.
“We need a sign that is very visible, that you are driving into a place, a small city, slow down,” she says. “Earphones off, put your head up, take a look and pay attention.”
The night of the accident, Lakshmanaswamy says he couldn’t sleep. It was his mother’s birthday and he thought to himself, ‘What if it had been me’?
Lakshmanaswamy says the community safety zone around campus is a good start for the community.
“I’m glad speed limits are being reviewed. Maybe now if there was an accident, it could prevent someone’s death,” he says.
For his part, Lakshmanaswamy says this accident made him more aware of his surroundings. He says he will turn his music down, not jay-walk and be mindful when crossing intersections. Since the fatal accident, he has yet to venture across the intersection where Rhyss Glenfield lost his life.