(Photo courtesy of Paul Swansen on Flickr)
(Photo courtesy of Paul Swansen on Flickr)

BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Perspectives Editor
and SAMANTHA ELLIOTT, Editor-in-Chief

Parking–it’s the biggest complaint from students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and understandably so. A student body that is willing to go to almost any lengths to walk the least distance possible to their classes, including circling the rows of cars waiting for someone to exit a building so they can stalk them, is only going to perpetuate the problem.

But we digress.

Construct a series of parking lots with roughly four thousand spots and you are bound to have vehicular collisions now and then. It’s unfortunate but, inevitable. The truly harrowing fact is the utter lack of preparation the University provides when these accidents happen.

There have been several articles written already this year concerning student behavior while driving around campus, essentially advocating for people to “be nicer” and not to drive like insane asylum patients. Whether this lack of respect for other commuters is true or not, it cannot be denied that people often react with anger when their car is violated. Sadly, this usually only serves to worsen the problem.

Last week, someone backed into my (Elizabeth’s) car while I was braking to turn out of the parking lot, claiming that I was speeding and that, though they looked, they did not see me, leaving a dent in my front passenger door. They then refused to trade insurance information (or any information) with me. After I admitted that if they would not give me any information, there was not much we could do, they drove away before I could get the license plate. Seeing as I had to run to a three hour class immediately after the collision, it was not until nearly four hours later that I had a chance to file a report with campus safety. The situation could have been handled so much better, had I a better knowledge of the best way to go about things.

My (Sam’s) story is very similar to Liz’s. It was the very first day of Winter 2010 semester. I had a four hour break in between classes and was off to buy some new school supplies that I had neglected to purchase before. Before class I had managed to find a parking spot in parking lot E, the one northeast of the Administrative and Social Science buildings.

I was parked in a spot where I just had to pull forward to get out; convenient since no one likes backing out of a spot anyway. There was already a line forming since classes had just been dismissed. A nice student waved me to get in line in front of them. I pulled halfway out and sat, waiting for the red pickup in front of me to pull up so I could fully pull into the line. The pickup had been idling in neutral and seeing brake lights, I got excited that we were about to start moving. The next second, the pickup was zooming into reverse, and I had a nice view through my windshield of the truck bed sitting on the hood of my tiny Sunfire.

Naturally I was outraged. They clearly hadn’t looked in their rear-view mirror, and it all happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to honk, much less back up (although I just would have hit another car in line). I got out of my car, unsure exactly what to do since I had never been in a situation like this before. I stared the girl down until she finally got out of her car.

She told me she was sorry and said, “Good thing there’s no damage.” My anger level rose as I glanced back at my, hood which looked more like a camping tent than something that was supposed to cover my engine. When I asked for her information, I was given instant attitude and she demanded mine also. I was slightly confused since I clearly hadn’t been at fault but agreed to give it to her anyway. We were at her truck when we exchanged information, and as I grabbed her slip of paper I said, “I’ll be right back,” and started towards my car to grab my phone and call Campus Safety. By the time I turned around, she was gone.

Dumbfounded, I glanced down at the slip of paper, on which was scribbled her name and a cell phone number. I couldn’t believe it. I had given her all of my information–name, phone number, car make, model, and license plate. I sat confused for a few minutes until the beeping of cars around me brought me back to my senses, and I headed over to Campus Safety. The officer, Moses, was very nice to me. He took me back to the scene and drew out the situation for me.

However helpful he was, it wasn’t any good. When my insurance company called the girl’s insurance company, she insisted it never happened. Her insurance company informed me that they sided with their clients and I was stuck with the bill for the damages, $700 total since I didn’t have full coverage at the time. It still angers me now and I know, like Liz, if I had known the proper procedure, the situation could have turned out a lot differently.

So, to all students who ever happen to bump into someone’s car (or have their own car bumped) on campus, here are some valuable tips, brought to you by people who wish they had known these beforehand.

1) Remain calm. Anger will only escalate the situation, and yelling at another student in a parking lot is extremely unclassy (#umdbrnproblems).

2) Call 911 or Campus Safety right away. If no one is seriously injured, the Dearborn Police will normally dispatch you to Campus Safety anyways. However, if you are going to file a report, make sure that you have an updated insurance card and vehicle registration (which you should always have in your car anyway!).

2b) Program Campus Safety’s number in your phone for situations like this. I had to look it up online, wasting time that I could have been using to file a report. Their office is 313-593-5333. Chances are, whether you are involved in a fender-bender, lock your keys in your car, or leave your lights on and come out to a dead battery, you’re going to need the number at one point or another.

3) If the other involved party (or parties) turn(s) out to be irrational or simply uncooperative, note the color/make/model of the car and at least write down the license plate number.

4) A picture is worth a thousand words. Take photos of the scene with your phone or camera; you may need them for insurance purposes later.

Accidents happen. Sometimes they are everyone’s fault; sometimes they are no one’s fault. If students could simply maintain a level head in the face of adverse situations and handle the consequences like prepared adults, they will foster a much more friendly environment.