DUI : Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

Morgantown is famous for it’s alcohol consumption. You may have heard the popular phrase, “A drinking town with a football problem” used to describe it, and with the way our football season has been going, it’s pretty true. You may have also heard the phrase, “Win or lose, we still booze”—also true.

But, game day isn’t the only time students and residents binge drink. WVU has a reputation as the number one party school in the nation. The average student will spend an average of $900 per year on alcohol, that’s almost more than the cost of books for Fall and Spring semester.

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After conducting a survey in Morgantown, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicated that they have driving while under the influence of alcohol. This helps us understand why the DUI rate is so high.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Drive sober or get pulled over.” Why do people make such a big deal out of driving under the influence? Drunk driving is the most frequently committed crime and therefore is always relevant. An alcohol-related crash kills one person every 31 minutes and injures one person every two minutes. We know drinking and driving is wrong, yet many choose to do it anyway.

Don’t think it’s a problem at WVU? Wrong. In fact, just early Sunday morning,  WVU Football player Travis Bell was arrested for DUI. After conducting a survey of 45 students on their drinking and driving habits, nearly 56 percent of respondents admitted to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Seventy percent of those respondents said they only allow themselves two drinks before driving home. The problem with this is that everyone has a different alcohol tolerance level.

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The majority of survey respondents report only drinking one or two alcoholic beverages before driving. However, two drinks for a smaller person could mean they’re above the legal limit.

Blood Alcohol Content percentages vary from state to state. Morgantown is a primarily a transient city–especially with the college students in and out each semester. In West Virginia, a blood alcohol content level of .02 percent if you’re under the age of 21, a BAC of .08 percent if you’re over the age of 21 or a commercial BAC of .04 percent could land you a DUI. A first offense could cause you jail time for up to six months or a fine from $100 to $1000 depending on your BAC or even a license suspension. Additionally, refusal to take a DUI chemical test results in an automatic license suspension. In the month of October alone, the City of Morgantown cited 29 DUIs. Since the beginning of November, WVU police have cited four DUIs. If you look through these reports you’ll find that DUI isn’t just a weekend problem. In October, there was a DUI reported on nearly every day of the week. 

One thing many people don’t realize is that just because you slept for a few hours doesn’t mean you’ll be sober when you wake up. You can still get pulled over for DUI the morning after a night of partying if you drive and  your BAC is too high.

According to the survey, students are trying to be safer. Nearly 45 percent of students said they make sure they have a designated driver before they go out. Additionally, five percent say they take a bus or a taxi, 28 percent say they walk, and six percent say they call someone. However, even with all of these alternatives, 11 percent of WVU students still say they choose to drive under the influence.There are now other alternatives offered at WVU. Dub V Safe Ride is trying to help solve the DUI problem here in Morgantown. The service offers drivers who ride a foldable scooter. When contacted via the Dub V Safe ride app, the driver rides the scooter to pick up the drunk student, folds up the scooter puts it in the trunk of the car, and drives the student and their car home safely. Then, the Dub V Safe Ride driver hops back on the scooter and goes to save the next drunk student. The program services all of Morgantown and its surrounding areas. You can even make reservations for long distance calls to Fairmont, Uniontown, and Washington, PA.

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There are many alternatives to drinking and driving.

Black Friday: Is It Worth It?

America, is this really what we’ve come to in order to save a few bucks?

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Many people take to social media to share their feelings on Black Friday.

Black Friday has been around since the 1960s. The original term was coined to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Since then, people have taken the words Black Friday to mean, do all of your Christmas shopping in the same day and take no prisoners.

As a child, I was a religious Black Friday shopper with my mother. I’ve seen it all. I watched an elderly lady steal a Christmas tree from me at age eight. I watched one mom punch another mom over an original Furby. I’ve seen parents play tug of war with a Tickle Me Elmo, and I’ve encountered some really rude people. The one thing I remember thinking as a child is, “Am I crazy? Or are these people crazy?”

Don’t get me wrong, the whole experience was an adrenaline rush for sure, and I always got what went out for, because if you’re going to subject yourself to the madness, you might as well come out a champion. However, as I’ve got older, things are changing, and this “holiday” seems almost ridiculous.

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Stores say customer demand has pushed them to open on Thanksgiving evening, but many customers say differently.

Black Friday is no longer a Friday only event with stores opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving night. Workers have been asked to sacrifice their Thanksgiving, a holiday where we’re supposed to give thanks and celebrate what we have, for greedy shoppers trying to save an extra dollar. It’s a little ironic that we’re sacrificing a holiday that observes thankfulness for materialism. Stores say they’re opening on Thanksgiving due to consumer demand, but let’s be serious it’s more like consumer acceptance. The same amount of people showed up for Black Friday before it was Black Thursday.

What are a couple tips for staying safe?

Stake out the Merchandise in Advance.  Check out the merchandise in advance. Know what you want to get and where it will be located. Go to the store early, ask the attendants where the line for the product you want will be and station yourself there.

Take Backup. There are safety in numbers. Take a friend or family member shopping with you. Instead of using your cell phone to communicate, take two-way radios to stay in contact. Many stores have bad service. Plus with two of you, there’s more of a chance you’ll get what you want.

Be nice, there will be more sales. Tempers will be running high, especially if the person ahead of you takes the last TV or iPad. Remember, you’re shopping for an inanimate object. It’s not worth injuring someone over. Black Friday isn’t the only day there are sales; there will be discounts on popular items all the way through the end of the year.

Shoppers aren’t the only people who suffer consequences on Black Friday. You don’t have to be a shopper to experience the jungle. Workers are just as at risk as shoppers who put themselves in that situation. Christina Maust used to work at Sears in Morgantown. She says after working retail on Black Friday, she will never shop during the “holiday.”

“I worked for a major retail chain during college and my first black friday as a manager I came back from lunch to find my co-workers being screamed at by a customer,” explained Maust. “I took over and it turns out the lady’s husband had purchased a piece of jewelry during the deals that morning. I sold it to him and he was very aware of what he was buying but he just wanted to find something for his wife for Christmas and be done. When she found out that what he had purchased was gold plated and not solid gold she came back demanding not only to get her money back but to receive a several hundred dollar diamond and solid gold bracelet for just 90.00 because my lies and trickery misled her husband to buy something “fake”. I said no, and she threw the bracelet as well as a stack of flyers at me. Eventually the store manager got involved. She walked out with the several hundred dollar bracelet for the price she wanted and called me names I’ve never even heard before. I’ve never been so close to walking out of a job before. I even had other witnesses saying they could not believe what I was allowed to take and that not only was the customer not escorted out by security but got what she wanted in the end. I now refuse to shop/support black friday after being on the other end.”

So is Black Friday worth it?

Experts say to remember that cheap junk is often just that, junk. They also say to remember that time is money. Evaluate your efforts—the lost sleep, the long lines, how much you’re actually saving, and the cold weather. After that evaluation does it seem worth it? If so, go for it.

Boycotting Black Friday may or may not be the answer, but thinking about how your acting in the heat of the action is important. Is that five dollar cheaper crock pot really worth a trip to jail?

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The irony of Black Friday beginning on Thanksgiving is that it takes away the true meaning of the holiday.

Drunk Mode: Helpful or Problematic?

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Many people say drunk texting is their number one regret after a night of partying.

You roll over after a night of partying, check your phone, and cringe. For many college students, this is a reality weekend after weekend. For some reason, drunk you think it’s a good idea to send your ex a desperate plea for a second chance or your crush a plea for a first chance. Maybe you accidentally texted something private to your parents or drunk dialed a professor. Most of us have been there.

People always talk about the obvious problems that come with binge drinking, like health issues, accidents, and violence, but one problem people often forget is drunk texting.   You might consider drinking and texting a “first world problem,” and if you talk to a college student, they’ll say drunk texting is one of the most hazardous parts of drinking, but aside from being a trivial problem, drinking and texting can actually be very detrimental. Drunk texting may compromise several relationships. Drunk texting an ex or a parent could result in physical and social consequences, but students just can’t seem to put the phone down. Relationships can be compromised and potentially the mental and physical health of a person. Statistically, drinking and texting is the number one reason for hangover regrets.

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Drunk Mode launched at WVU last week. The app seeks to prevent students from drunk texting.

Last week, Drunk Mode WVU was launched for iPhone and Android users. This app allows you to block certain contacts from your phone for several hours while you party, live it up, and get drunk. Once it was released there was a lot of buzz among students on how beneficial the app would be; other students weren’t convinced.

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This seems like a great idea right? You can get drunk, still have your phone, and not send any embarrassing texts or incriminating phone calls. Wrong.

There are a few things that should be considered before you decide using drunk mode, or at least before you decide who to block for several hours.

What if you block your parents’ phone numbers from your phone, get injured while alone, and someone finds you but can’t call your parents? What if you just get injured but blocked all of your contacts that would actually come and help you?

A sobering is the fact that more than 500,000 full-time college students are injured every year in alcohol-related accidents, and nearly 1,700 die in those accidents.

Similarly, if you block someone who would bail you out of jail, what are you going to do if you end up getting picked up by police? If you don’t have the number memorized, you could be out of luck.

IMG_5926Additionally, the app could promote binge drinking and drinking to get drunk by providing a solution to embbarassing yourself via mobile device. One in six adults binge drinks more than four times per month. While the app may try and suppress one bad habit, drinking and texting, it promotes the overall issue which is binge drinking. The app essentially says it’s okay to binge drink because the app will stop you from the bad decisions like drunk texting and eating while drunk that may follow.

Some reviewers of the app, have also said it’s not completely fool proof. While it may remove the contact of your choice from your phonebook for awhile, it does not remove them from your recent calls and texts. Which means you must also remove them from your recent contacts in addition to removing them from your contact for the time period.  Additionally, if you do try and contact these people you’ve “blocked” a pop up message comes up instead that you set ahead of time. So instead of contacting them, you just keep getting the pop up message.

What are the positives? The app does allow users to set reminders not to engage in certain drunk behaviors like overeating or driving during or after drinking. Every time you go to text someone you blocked before hand, a helpful message pops up preventing you from further action and reminding you of something. There’s no question the idea is genius, and will be taken advantage of by college students everywhere. When used wisely, the app could be helpful to the simple struggles of a heartbroken college student, but you have to be careful how you use the app.

Is your child safe?

Every parent hopes their child is never involved in an incident such as the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, but these types of incidents aren’t the only safety concerns in our schools.

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Morgantown High School recently had a verbal bullying incident result in a stabbing. Many people overlook bullying as a real problem, but it’s a reality here in Morgantown.

Last week at Morgantown High School, an apparent bullying situation escalated to a stabbing. The 14-year-old who allegedly stabbed a 17-year-old acted out after the 17-year-old attacked him first. The issue is much larger than school safety—it’s an issue of bullying.

Many people dismiss bullying because they feel like it’s not an actual threat in our schools, but the fact is bullying is a reality here in Morgantown and other schools around the country.  It’s estimated that 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being attacked verbally more than once, and 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another. This is a problem because bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact. Recently, West Virginia received a warning from the federal government about school bullying. A recent federal government survey of WV High School students found that 23 percent of students had been a victim of bullying in the last year. This is one of the highest percentages of high schoolers in the country.

“I think bullying is always a problem,” admitted Morgantown High School student Olivia VanHorn. “I, personally, have not encountered too many terrible acts of bullying, but I do know that it’s a problem every day and kids experience it often, and it sadly goes unnoticed. The first thing I think of is the stabbing incident at MHS last Wednesday. That began as bullying and obviously spiraled out of control. ”

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Many Twitter accounts such as the MHS problems account exist. Subtweeting is a form of cyberbullying whether students realize it or not.

While this most recent incident seems to be a result of verbal abuse, it’s not the only way bullying can happen at MHS. Social media is one of the fastest growing ways the world communicates, and it has given rise to the one of the fastest growing concerns among students—cyberbullying. I recently stumbled upon the @MHSproblems Twitter account. The anonymously ran account hasn’t been active since May of 2012, but some of the tweets contain some pretty harsh language, and are clearly directed at certain individuals including teachers. It’s just one example of how social media is being used to lash out at others.

“I’m absolutely stunned when I look through this Twitter account,” said VanHorn. I can’t believe that someone would actually spend time to make those tweets. I think bullying is definitely more prevalent now because of the popularity of social media. The act of “subtweeting” allows people to lash out against others who have hurt them in some way or have insulted them, so they retaliate publicly escalating the situation.”

So can we stop bullying in our schools?

Stopping bullying in schools will prove to be to be difficult, but it’s worth the fight to prevent future situations like this stabbing from happening. There are a few things schools can to do to help build a safe environment:

Assess Bullying in Your School.  You may not think bullying is a problem in your school but distributing a simple bullying survey to your students can help your institution gain some insight on how much bullying is affecting learning at your school.

Create Policies and Rules. Rules and consequences to breaking those rules can be a huge deterrent for bullies. This doesn’t always mean it will stop bullying entirely, but it does help. Morgantown High School does have bullying policies in place, and they offer a variety of helpful tips on their website for students about bullying. Ironically, there’s only a small section on bullying under the behavior section of the Monongalia County Schools Handbook. On page 26, the handbook mentions good and bad behavior. Bullying is simply listed as a type of unacceptable behavior, but the definition and consequences seem vague in the handbook.

“Schools need to build a trustworthy environment where students feel comfortable letting others know what’s happening to them,” said VanHorn. “I think one of the biggest issues with bullying is students not feeling comfortable telling others what’s going on.”

Actively Talk to Your Child About Bullying. Many children, especially older children are embarrassed by being bullied land are less likely to consult a parent or adult on the issue. Parents can be proactive by paying attention to their child’s behavior and asking questions. Additionally, parents can teach their child at a young age that violence is not the way to solve problems.

“I think it often goes unnoticed,” explained VanHorn. “Many kids who are bullied keep what’s happening to them bottled up inside and don’t feel comfortable talking to adults about what is happening to them. I think that is a huge problem. We need to make kids feel more comfortable talking to adults about what’s going on and taking steps towards getting them help.”

Bullying may never be completely eradicated, but by being proactive, the amount of bullying can definitely be reduced.

Look Both Ways & Pay Attention!

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45 Morgantown residents were surveyed about pedestrian safety. Of those surveyed, only four percent indicated that they always use a crosswalk when crossing the street. Only 50 percent reported using a crosswalk often.

Looking both ways before you cross the street is something your parents teach you when you first begin to walk. Common sense for an adult right? Wrong.

Today we are faced with so many distractions that we often forget simple things such as looking both ways before crossing the street. In the next 24 hours, more than 460 people will be treated in an emergency room for traffic-related pedestrian injuries. In the 2 hours, on average, one pedestrian will die from injuries in a traffic crash.

There have been a couple of hit and runs in Morgantown since the WVU semester has started. The last reported incident of someone being hit or nearly hit by a car on WVU’s campus happened just a little over a week ago on October 25, 2013. Several others have gone unreported.

Unfortunately, some of these accidents have been fatal. Most recently in September, a WVU engineering student from Harper’s Ferry was struck on Patteson Drive. The accident was fatal.

Kelsey Pape, a former WVU student, has been a victim of a hit and run. She never reported her accident, but said it made her more careful as a pedestrian and a driver.

“I was a sophomore, and I had just walked out of Barnes and Noble by the Mountainlair with my coffee,” explained Pape. “My class was in Oglebay Hall, so I waited to cross the street as a couple cars went by. When I thought the coast was clear, I started to cross the street. Someone suddenly pulled out of the Mountainlair parking garage rather quickly, thinking he would stop, I kept walking. He didn’t stop though. He was looking down and texting. He was probably going ten to 15 miles per hour when he hit me. It wasn’t enough to hospitalize me, but it was enough to make me fly back a couple of feet into the middle of the road, get bad road rash, and be completely bruised from the hip down. He looked more shaken than I was.

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Survey results indicate that the majority of pedestrians have divided attention when crossing the street. Nearly 72 percent of respondents reported listening to music while crossing the street which means they likely cannot hear what’s going on around them. Additionally, 65 percent of respondents reported texting while crossing the street, and 77 percent reported talking on the phone while crossing the street.

I recently distributed a pedestrian survey to 45 Morgantown residents; of those surveyed,  40 people reported that they text, talk on the phone, or listen to music while they’re walking which means they’re full attention is not focused on the sights and sounds of the road.

Pape says her experience has made her pay more attention when driving and when crossing the street. She acknowledges that the driver isn’t the only one who has to pay attention.

“Pedestrians need to realize just because they’re holding some books or wearing a backpack doesn’t mean they don’t have to look both ways,” said Pape. “It’s something we are taught when we are little kids. Look left and right, and wait until the coast is clear and even wait a few more seconds after that. You have to pay attention as much as the driver does. As a driver now, especially when I’m driving through campus, I always drive five miles per hour if that just because I know some students cross without even looking. They also pop up out of places drivers can’t necessarily see.”

Pape says she hopes laws such as the new texting and driving and talking while driving law will help prevent such accidents as the one she had during her college days. Most importantly, she says she hopes people learn to just simply pay attention.

City officials and university police agree many accidents can be avoided by simply paying attention. They offer a few tips on how you should approach crossing the street. While these tips may seem like common sense, it’s often these things that people forget:

  • Find a crosswalk and look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact with the driver or bicyclist before crossing.
  • Don’t text or talk while crossing the street.
  • Turn off music before crossing so you can hear oncoming traffic.
  • Dress to be seen. If it’s dark outside and you have to walk, avoid dark colors.

Remember, as a pedestrian or as a driver paying attention is crucial to avoiding serious or fatal accidents. Most accidents tend to happen at night and on WVU’s downtown campus between class changes.

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University police say simply paying attention could save your life, or at least save you from serious injuries when crossing the street.

Trick-Or-Treat: Staying Safe on Halloween in Morgantown

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Trick-or-treating has been a popular part of Halloween for decades, but there can be safety concerns. Parents should plan ahead before taking their children trick-or-treating. Photo courtesy of Greg Corio.

Halloween is a popular holiday especially among children, but it has only been celebrated for a short time. All Hallow’s Eve as it was originally called, came to the US via a wave of immigrants who came Ireland, England, and Scotland. Trick-or-treating was not always a part of Halloween; it originally spread from western United States. Trick-or-treating was first given national attention in October of 1947 .

In the 1990s, trick-or-treating began to change due to many factors such as the rise of people living in apartment buildings and the rise in non-traditional households. However, there are some safety concerns associated with trick or treating.

Trick-or-treating in Morgantown can be a challenge. As a college town, sometimes it’s hard to decide what path to take, and where to take your child. The likelihood of college kids participating in handing out candy is slim. It’s probably best to avoid neighborhoods near campus, and apartment complexes that are populated by a majority of college students. Planning a route in advance and sticking to paths you and your child are familiar with is often the best choice. By sticking close to home, you can avoid frustration and sore legs for both you and your child. For the Morgantown area, where houses and neighborhoods are spread out, many parents choose to stick to their street or block when it comes to trick-or-treating and then choose other alternatives offered by the city.

“We only take our children to neighbors that we know,” said mother Tara Hartley. “You have to make safety a priority.”

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Planning a route before venturing out to trick-or-treat is best to ensure safety. Know the neighborhood and trust the people. Photo courtesy of Tara Hartley.

Halloween often happens when it’s dark creating a variety of issues when it comes to crossing the street with small children. Staying well-lit is a great way to avoid this issue.  Plan for costumes that are bright and reflective. Consider adding reflective tape to the costume or trick or treat bags for added safety. In addition, carry a flashlight with fresh batteries, just incase there’s an unlit area along your trick-or-treating path. Morgantown has tried to cut down on trick-or-treating in the dark. The city is starting trick-or-treat at 6:00pm this year. If you have young children, city officials suggest taking them early before it gets dark outside to ensure the best safety.

Make sure costumes are short and comfortable. To avoid minor accidents such as your child tripping and falling, make sure all costumes are short and do not drag the ground. Tripping can be dangerous, especially at night. Hemming your child’s costume to an appropriate length, and making sure your child has comfortable shoes they can walk in, can be helpful to avoid minor injuries.  In addition, avoiding masks could be a good idea. Masks can often make it difficult for your child to see and breathe, both of which could be potential problems.

Finally, regardless of where you live, Morgantown or not, it’s a good idea to check out your child’s candy before you let them eat anything. While it doesn’t happen as often as people think, candy tampering does happen.  It’s always a good idea to use caution and check just to be safe. Throw away any candy that is not in its original wrapper, or looks as though it has been opened.

Small communities and housing developments in Morgantown are looking at alternatives while keeping trick-or-treating door to door.

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Some communities in Morgantown have chosen to make trick-or-treating a community event. By loading children up into one truck for a trick-or-treating hayride and driving them from house to house, children can stay safe while having fun. Photo courtesy of Greg Corio.

“A few years ago one of my neighbors decided to organize a neighborhood trick-or-treat hayride where all the kids go out together, transported around the neighborhood in a trailer filled with hay and being towed by a pick-up truck that belongs to one of our neighbors,” explained Morgantown Resident, Emily Corio. “Most all of the parents go too. It’s really turned into an annual neighborhood event.  This year we had two pick-up trucks and trailers full of people.  We start in the late afternoon, when it’s still light out, but the kids have glow sticks they use when it gets dark.  The kids think they’re fun toys, but the glow sticks also make it easier to see the kids running from house to house once it’s darker, which is important in our neighborhood where there are no street lamps.  I think keeping all of the kids together with a lot of parental supervision makes trick or treating in our neighborhood safer since the houses are spread out and there are no sidewalks or streetlights.”

In addition to these tips, many businesses in the community are offering safer trick-or-treating opportunities. For example, in Monongalia County, the Morgantown mall hosts “Malloween” annually. The event offers a Halloween costume contest for children and pets. Stores put out candy for the trick-or-treaters to enjoy during the events.  BOPARC also hosts a Trick or Treat Spooktacular. This event takes place in downtown Morgantown. Local downtown businesses participate in handing out candy to trick-or-treaters from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Afterwards, guests are invited to head to the Metropolitan Theatre for a free show by Extreme Illusions and Escapes.

Trick-or-treating in Morgantown will be held Thursday, October 31, 2013 from 6:00 p.m to 7:30 p.m.

The Mileground Roundabout: Is it Safer?

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The Mileground Roundabout will safely carry over 30,000 cars per day. Photo courtesy of the WVDOT.

As Bryan mentioned yesterday, people are always talking about Morgantown’s newest addition to the Mileground. Whether you like the roundabout, hate it, or have no idea what it is, it’s now a part of Morgantown and several residents’ daily commute. We all knew it was coming due to spending countless hours in traffic due to the construction of the traffic circle on the Mileground; but on June 26, 2013 the roundabout became a reality for Morgantown.

When WVU students are in Morgantown nearly 135,000 people occupy the city often causing major traffic issues. Roundabouts are known for reducing large amounts of traffic. In fact, the City of Morgantown reported that the Mileground Roundabout is projected to carry about 30,000 vehicles a day reducing traffic significantly.

So what’s the problem with something that reduces the traffic issue we face everyday during rush hour? Most residents say the issue is confusion on how to use it which causes safety concerns.

“It’s not that bad,” said Morgantown Resident Tyler Elliot. “The biggest problem is that people don’t know how to use it.”

“I love the roundabout,” said Morgantown resident Sara Boppe. I find that it keeps traffic moving which is something the Mileground really needed. While the roundabout is safe, those who don’t know how to navigate it and refuse to really learn how to, make it unsafe. However, in the many times I’ve used it, I’ve never seen any unsafe driving while using it.”

While there have been no reported accidents yet as a result of the roundabout, some residents say they’ve had some interesting experiences while using it.

“I had to come to a dead stop in the middle of it because someone blew through a yield sign and almost hit me,” explained Morgantown resident Alyssa Casalino.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation issued a video that explains the roundabout and how to use it properly to those who’ve never used one. In addition, the city of Morgantown has come up with a few rules on how to ensure safety. The city says when approaching the roundabout, look for signs and pavement markings showing which lane you should be in. The city also says to slow down, obey all traffic signs and yield to pedestrians an bicyclists in the crosswalk. When using a roundabout, you should always yield to traffic on your left already in the roundabout. The city is also very clear that you should never make a left-hand turn into the roundabout. This is dangerous and could cause safety issues.

The key to solving the “problem” of safety involving the roundabout is to educate yourself on how to use it. Once you know how to use it, go slow and use caution each time you use it. Remember, not everyone will know how to use it, but more people will learn with time.