FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith has only required students and faculty to have parking passes for one school year, but the new program has already lowered vehicle accidents by 48 percent.
"We attribute that to the fact that we made some areas designated for only certain populations," Ray Ottman, U of A-Fort Smith police chief said. "By cutting down the number of traffic vehicles in that area, we feel we were really able to limit who was fighting for a spot, waiting for a spot, coming in, coming late."
Students said they are noticing a difference in and around campus.
"I think they just have a better sense of patrol now," student Andrew Futter said. "They know who needs to be here and who doesn't."
"We're more cautious and more aware of where we can park and whatever parking permit you have," student Deborah Beckham said. "I know that's probably helped quite a bit."
Requiring parking permits has helped in other aspects of campus safety, not just accidents.
"Students who are now parking in outer lots who hadn't parked out there before, they're letting us know the sidewalk is cracked over here and loose or a tree root is growing up," Ottman said. "They're also letting us know the lighting is really bad over there after a night class. That's prompted us in doing an upgrade in lighting on our campus, as well."
Students said the parking permits are decreasing call times when accidents and other issues do happen.
"If there's a problem with the car or we've had some cases where we've had a car broken into," Beckham said. "They know right away who to contact because of that parking permit number. It's easier than tracking down that tag."
With progress coming quickly, those at the university are hoping to continue making campus safer and more enjoyable for students and faculty.
"I know it was difficult to put that permit into place, but I know in the long run, it's going to be better for all of us," Beckham said. "It's helping to keep the accidents and things down."
The accident data was collected from August 1, 2016 to May 11, 2017 and compared data during the same time period the year before.
The university will continue collecting vehicle accident data throughout the next few years and will review student concerns regarding campus updates and maintenance.