Senior Ashley Kerley cannot remember what happened just before she crossed the street, but she knows she heard the slap of her body against the car hood and then what felt like flying.
“My vision was just kind of like spinning for a while, and next thing I knew was on the ground. And I was in kind of a weird position, but I was like, ‘Don’t move,’ because I didn’t know what injuries I had,” Kerley said.
Kerley was on her way to work when she crossed the intersection of Cedar and South Street and was hit by a Dodge Caravan going an estimated 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. Kerley sustained injuries to her pelvis and sacrum and was brought to Galesburg Cottage Hospital. According to her doctors, she should return to full health by the beginning of Winter Term.
The collision was not caused by pedestrian error. Kerley said she was using the crosswalk and the Galesburg Police crash report discloses that the driver was looking left at the Knox property and did not see Kerley crossing the street. In light of her collision and a history of traffic incidents on that road — a Knox student was killed in a car collision at South and West Street in 2012 — Kerley hopes the city will respond to demands to make that stretch of South street safer for pedestrians.
“There’s a pattern here at that street and I would hate for anybody to go through what I did because it was horrible, and it still is incredibly difficult,” Kerley said.
Kerley and her fiance Teslin Penoyer, senior, both happen to be members of the Student Senate’s Health and Wellness Committee. Penoyer, chairwoman of the committee, said they will assist Campus Safety and Campus Life in contacting the city about stop signs and the lack of speed limit signs along Knox’s stretch of South street.
“I think as a college, because we turnover so quickly, we often drop things unless it personally affects us,” Penoyer said. “Which is something that I am hoping to kind of refocus … because it shouldn’t take a student being injured or having an awful situation for us to put in place these protections. We should try to be preemptive.”
The collision occurred on Oct. 28. Since then, Director of Campus Safety Nathan Kemp’s conversations with the city have included the possibility of extending the street’s yellow no-parking zones to increase intersection visibility and providing additional signage such as push button activated crossing lights. But as of now, Kemp said it is too early to tell what changes to the street will be made.
“There’s nothing that I can say is going to happen,” Kemp said. “I just, again, in fact, spoke today to Wayne Carl (Director of Public Works) and the city about some ideas, but nothing yet has been solidified enough to say you know, ‘You can look forward to this happening.’ That’s just not something I can do right now.”
Kerley also hopes her experience may help start a conversation about accessibility on campus. As Kerley recovers, she must navigate campus in a wheelchair. After the collision, she knew that her third floor apartment would not suffice. But after spending one week at Cottage, she was told she would not be allowed to leave the hospital without a home to return to. To find accessible on-campus housing, Penoyer reached out to Campus Life.
Director of Campus Life Eleanor Kahn said there are temporary housing spaces withheld all throughout campus for emergencies like Kerley’s. Kahn first offered Five Name, but there was a concern about distance from academic buildings. Then Kahn offered a space in Seymour, but Penoyer was not satisfied with the amount of bathroom space for Kerley’s wheelchair.
Penoyer, a former tour guide, suggested an empty apartment on the first floor of Hamblin that is used to show prospective students. Instead, Kahn found an available apartment on the second floor of Hamblin whose inhabitants are abroad this term.
“I think two different things could have happened. If enrollment was really high and every single bed was full, we may not have been able to accommodate a student who is currently off campus,” Kahn said. “That might not have been even an option. Now if we had a student who is currently living on campus who had something like this happen where their level of accessibility changed, we might have to move people.”
Kerley said the apartment meets most of her needs but that the Knox campus still proves incredibly difficult to navigate. Penoyer noted a fire-alarm recently went off in Hamblin and they were uncertain whether they both should use the elevator. In order to get to classes, Kerley relies on the help of her friends and a Galesburg program called Handivan that helps transit people with special mobility needs.
“I am going to be late to one of my classes everyday for the rest of the term because that is just how the program works,” Kerley said.
After Kerley first returned to campus, the arrangement was that Campus Safety would help drive her to classes, but that arrangement only remained for one day. Kemp said that Campus Safety is not a medically trained staff and is not equipped to provide the service in a safe way.
“We have one vehicle, so at the time that we are providing that transport (for) the short term basis that we did, it hampers our ability to respond to other emergency situations,” said Dan Robinson, Associate Director of Campus Safety.
Given the amount of accommodations Knox affords, Kerley believes her injuries would not have been sustainable if they had been worse.
“If this had been a permanent injury, I don’t know if I could even graduate from here,” Kerley said.
This article originally stated Penoyer required help getting to classes, which was incorrect.