Student hit by car remains in critical condition at INOVA: Michelle Dawson was planning trip to France
By Emily Sharrer, Editor-in-Chief
Since March 29, Michelle Pearl Dawson, a junior at George Mason University, has been in intensive care at INOVA Fairfax hospital after being hit by a car while in a crosswalk on Patriot Circle. For Michelle, who remains in critical condition, the accident has changed everything. A major in marketing with a minor in French, Michelle had planned to go to France for a month this summer and was also looking forward to joining the French Club according to Danielle Dawson, Michelle’s older sister.
“The study abroad trip was going to be pretty huge for her,” said Danielle Dawson, a senior art and visual technology major. “She had just been thinking about it every single day since she signed up and was accepted…this is a very, very hard time for all of us and for her.”
Michelle, who worked with her sister as a nanny for three children, is an intelligent and hardworking student who enjoys spending time outdoors, say family members.
“Her academic history is incredibly strong,” said Danielle Dawson. “This girl is so dedicated and is such a hard worker and now her entire life is on hold and in jeopardy.”
“Of course we’re hopeful, we’re always hopeful,” said Michelle’s dad, Dave Dawson. “I’m the optimist, so I think everyday will be the day she gets up and starts moving around, but that isn’t happening.”
According to Walter Randall, a government and international politics major who was walking with Michelle when the incident occurred, the pair was walking to Michelle’s car, parked at her older sister Desiree’s house on Armstrong Street when Michelle was hit around 9:35 p.m. Randall says the two took the necessary precautions before entering the crosswalk, which is located directly in front of the police station on Patriot Circle.
“We were definitely in the crosswalk and we looked both ways before we crossed,” said Randall. “There were no cars at all when we first started walking and she didn’t see the car until we were almost in the lane he was traveling in and she was like, ‘Walter there’s a car’ and after that, she got hit.”
The driver of the car, Jeffrey Jenkins, a 23-year-old non-Mason student was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian.
Though Mason Police have closed their investigation, the case remains open with Fairfax County Police who are finishing their report on the reconstruction of the accident according to Dave Dawson.
“That report will be the final findings of the incident.”
According to friends and family members, quotes by Deputy Police Chief George Ginovsky in the Monday, April 5 issue of Broadside in which he urged students to “look both ways” before crossing the street, were misleading about the actual circumstances of the accident.
“A lot of people are mad at those wordings…’common sense’ and ‘looking both ways.’ What that’s insinuating is it’s [Michelle and Walter’s] fault. And it was not their fault,” said Dave Dawson. “They did look both ways and they were conscientious; these are honor roll kids, extremely smart kids, it’s not fair for them to be portrayed any other way. They are portrayed poorly by what he said.”
University Spokesman Dan Walsch, says, however, that neither the university nor the university police were attempting to place blame on Dawson for the accident.
“If the police gave anyone the impression that this girl was at fault for what happened, then I’m sure that was not their intent,’ said Walsch. “She certainly was not charged with any crime, the driver was…so I’m sure that’s not the impression they were trying to give because there’s nothing further from the truth. What happened is most tragic and our hearts go out to her, her family and friends.”
The Next Step
Friends and family of Dawson say that the crosswalk where Dawson was hit remains a dangerous spot on campus and think something needs to be done to enhance the safety of that area.
“With the lights and everything it seems pretty safe, but I think drivers need to be aware there is a crosswalk coming up especially since it’s before the light. No one ever sees a crosswalk before a light,” said Randall.
Dave Dawson agrees.
“The way that crosswalk was placed in front of a traffic light gives the driver a false signal to accelerate when he sees green. It’s a dangerous, dangerous spot,” said Dawson.
According to Walsch, no prior complaints had been filed with the university regarding the crosswalk where Dawson was struck.
“Regarding that specific cross walk, to my knowledge they have received no formal complaint about it,” said Walsch. “Safety is something we’re constantly monitoring just as we do every academic program we offer to make sure it’s as good as it possibly can be. We are very open to any concerns or questions, complaints, etc. that people may have about that crosswalk or any other crosswalk.”
For the Dawsons, what is most important is raising awareness for both pedestrians and drivers so that other accidents can be avoided.
“We just want to reflect the truth on campus, that it’s not just up to pedestrians to avoid accidents like this happening,” said Danielle Dawson.