By SUSAN JONES
It took months for Pittsburgh Police to charge the driver of the Port Authority bus that hit and killed Pitt senior Barbara Como in January.
And during that time, Pitt has been continuing efforts it started right after the accident to improve pedestrian safety, including creating a new safety awareness campaign that will launch as part of the 2020-21 academic year.
On June 19, Shavonne James, 33, of Pittsburgh was arrested in connection with the Jan. 18 fatal collision at the intersection of De Soto Street and Fifth Avenue, according to Pittsburgh Police.
James faces four charges — involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, unlawful activities, and right of way of pedestrians in crosswalks.
Como, 20, of Chester Springs, Pa., was struck by the inbound Route 83 bus as she crossed De Soto Street. She was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Como, who lived in Lothrop Hall, studied anthropology and psychology.
The Post-Gazette reported last week that Pittsburgh police said in a criminal complaint that James’ view was blocked by a passenger, whom she had picked up where there was no bus stop, when the bus struck Como as she and two others were legally crossing De Soto Street at Fifth Avenue.
According to the report on the complaint, video from cameras on the bus, a traffic signal and a nearby building showed the passenger stayed in the front of the bus, beyond the line where passengers are supposed to stand, fumbling through his pockets.
With the passenger still standing too far forward, the complaint said, James resumed driving and turned right onto De Soto, where the bus struck Como behind the right front wheel. The bus continued moving and ran over the victim with its rear wheels.
James has been on paid leave since the accident.
“The Pitt community remains deeply saddened by the tragic death of Barbara Como,” the University said in a statement. “Enhancing traffic safety is clearly a shared community responsibility to which Pitt, pedestrians, motorists and the Port Authority can each contribute.”
After the accident, Pitt Police officers were stationed at critical intersections and multiple communications were sent to students from Student Affairs asking for their input on how to improve pedestrian safety. Faculty and staff were asked by the University Times to contribute suggestions about traffic safety.
Students also were consulted on a new safety awareness campaign that will launch as part of the new academic year. The full details are still being developed. Orientation for all incoming students already includes a safety tips video with a pedestrian safety component.
“Looking ahead, we hope to further collaborate closely with the University community and motorists, as well as the Port Authority, to further enhance the safety of pedestrians,” the Pitt statement said.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-4294.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.