Mairin Din ’12 in “Critical but Stable” Condition

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal has been in close contact with Din’s family. She told the Gazette that “there has been no change since the beginning… there is some swelling in her brain, she is unconscious, but at this point that is good because it allows her body to rest.” Westphal continued, “she’s young, she’s a fighter… she’s very physically fit. These are all good things moving forward.”

Visitation is still restricted to immediate family members, reported Westphal, but “her family has been grateful for all the letters, the cards, and the well-wishes… they are staying in College-owned housing at Strath Haven, and have been very appreciative of that space.” If you wish to send Mairin’s family cards, please deliver them to Rachel Head in the Dean’s Office.

In addition to emotional support, the Swarthmore community has been attempting to improve the safety of the intersection where the accident occurred. Susan Smythe, ADA Program Manager in Facilities and Vice-President of the Swarthmore Borough Council, wrote in an e-mail that “Yale is a State Road, and as such, the borough has no jurisdiction – but the borough does have a new Traffic Advisory committee, and they have taken up the issue, and will pursue it further… the Borough is taking steps to install a middle-of-the-road traffic warning sign, similar to the one at Yale and Rutgers.”

As to why such steps had not been taken before, Smythe explained that “The state did do a traffic study a number of years ago, and the usage results then did not warrant a stop sign or light… the borough ran their accident statistics from 2002 and there has only been one accident at that intersection since that time–which of course doesn’t diminish the tragedy of this one in any way.”

Jaymes Fairfax-Colombo ’10, on the cross country team with Mairin, had initially started a petition to put a stop sign at the intersection, but upon looking at the statistics Smythe mentioned, he says, “[they] don’t seem to back up a petition for a measures to stop the flow of traffic… I plan to attend the town council meeting on Monday to bring the issue up there and see what can be done to make the intersection more salient to both cars and pedestrians.”

Smythe encourged anyone with thoughts or concerns to “come to a council meeting… or be in touch with any council member.

Mairin Din is from Irvington, New York, and that community has also rallied around her and her family in support. According to the town website, “the entire community is invited to attend a ‘Walk for Mairin’ on Friday, October 3 at 7:15 PM at the Peter K. Oley track at the Irvington High School campus.”

A fund for donations to help defray Mairin’s medical costs has also been set up in Irvington, and information about that can be found here.

The Gazette will continue to cover this story as events develop, and wishes Mairin, her family, and friends the best in this difficult time.


  1. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    I wonder why there are so many pseudonymous parents posting all of a sudden? This post has more parents posting anonymously than I’ve ever seen before — which isn’t really a critique, just an observation. My critique is that this discussion might be clearer if the anonymous parents used more distinctive pseudonyms.

    Anyway, I agree with our most recent “parent” that it’s absurd to speak of closing ML or warning students away from ML because of this. I speak as a just-graduated alum who lived in ML for the 2005-08 school years, serving as an RA in that dorm my senior year. It’s risky business walking out your front door in the morning, and perhaps slightly more risky if you’re using ML’s front door instead of, say, David Kemp’s. That fact doesn’t mean that it’s unreasonably risky to get to campus from either location.

    But that doesn’t mean that the intersection of Harvard and Yale is “safe”, nor that improvements are not sorely needed there. I agree with Colin that the intersection should become a four-way stop. Those drivers who actively accelerate at pedestrians in the crosswalk are unlikely to pay attention to any amount of advisory signage.

    See Sarah’s comment above if you think I’m exaggerating. Or the materials on Colin’s Flickr account, as linked from his name above, though he is advocating for a four-way stop at a different Yale Ave intersection there: (By the way, Colin, good luck with that effort, and thanks for relating the provenance of the Yale and Kenyon signs — I wasn’t previously aware of that.)

    Reading Mike’s initial comment from the proper perspective, you can even see what some drivers might be thinking when they decide to behave so recklessly.

    Again, I do think that it is generally possible to traverse the intersection safely, if this is done carefully and alertly. If drivers had a greater understanding of and respect for the law, it would always be possible to do so; as it stands, a minority of situations end up requiring the pedestrian to race to the curb and/or the motorist to slam on their brakes at the last moment. Not only are pedestrians being routinely intimidated out of crossing in situations where they have the legal right to do so, but close calls still end up happening too often. Based on my experience at that intersection, I believe that a four-way stop would be the least inconvenient and most cost-effective solution.

  2. 0
    parent says:

    Is it truly unreasonable to expect adult college students to look both ways and wait until the traffic is clear? Isn’t that the first thing our mothers taught us about crossing the street?

    When I think of schools like NYU or Columbia or so many colleges built on both sides of a state highway (e.g. Route 2 in Williamstown or Rts 11 and 74 thru Dickinson or Mass Ave in Cambridge), I have a hard time picturing Yale Ave. as presenting an insurmountable street crossing challenge.

    We are sending these young adults to deal with the traffic in places like Mumbai, Shanghai, and Toyko. I think they can handle the Ville. Good grief, what if someone decides to walk up to Starbucks?

    Maybe Swarthmore should hire school crossing guards, give them whistles and white chest-belts, and have them instruct the college students to all hold hands before crossing. Sheesh.

    I feel absolutely horrible that a student got injured. I felt absolutely horrible a few years back when a student got seriously injured in a car accident on Chester Road. I felt devastated when a student was killed driving to the airport on an interstate highway in Georgia. As a parent, all of these feel like “my kid” when these accidents happen. I understand the urge to make everything perfect. If there’s a way to improve the intersection, I’m all for it (honestly, a button activated crossing-light may be the solution). I don’t, however, think it does anyone a service to suggest that the best and brightest young adults aren’t up to the challenge of traffic in downtown Swarthmore. To urge students not to live in Mary Lyon because they can’t handle crossing the street seems a bit much.

  3. 0
    Colin Purrington says:

    I have a community garden plot nearby this intersection, and see a lot of students waiting to cross while dozens of cars pass by, all failing to yield to pedestrians. Even with more “yield to pedestrian” signage, this crosswalk will always be dangerous, and I would urge students to never live in dorms that require crossing Yale Avenue. A stop sign would make it safe. Although it’s true that the state “owns” Yale Avenue, the borough has a (secret) ability to erect stop signs if it really wants to. Evidence of this ability can be seen at the intersection of Yale and and Kenyon, where there is a stop sign that was recently put up by the Borough of Swarthmore. Although it was apparently erected without the State’s permission, it has lasted for years without any complaint by the State. It has made a formerly dangerous intersection safe, and has reduced (according to people who live on the corner) traffic noise.

  4. 0
    parent says:

    “Maybe I’m missing something, why are students even housed where their route to the campus puts them at jeopardy?”


    We are talking about adults crossing a posted 35 mph two-lane street with stop signs on Harvard yielding to through traffic on Yale. We aren’t asking them to spring across the front straight at Indianapolis during the 500 Mile Race.

    Seriously, I think adults can be expected to handle it.

    From the Google Maps street view, it appears that the real culprit is shrubbery blocking the view down the hill on Yale, unless a motorist or cyclist comes to a complete stop at the stop signs in either direction on Harvard. It doesn’t appear that a rolling stop would be a good move at this intersection.

  5. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    Also, I’ve historically had a wavering opinion on whether it’s appropriate to use the middle-of-the-road signs and/or other “yield to pedestrian” signage as a solution to problems at a particular intersection. While it may well be a good pragmatic move in terms of driver behavior at a particularly problematic intersection, I’ve historically been concerned that a regular use of such signage at intersections commonly used by pedestrians might give rise to the very sort of driver confusion Mike has pointed out, wherein drivers forget (or, still worse, never learn) that they have the same responsibility to yield to pedestrians at other intersections that do not have signs reminding them of this fact. The ultimate effect, of course, is that pedestrians who have more time to advocate for the needed signage or who live in jurisdictions with larger signage budgets will be better able to safely cross a busy street near their workplace or residence. I am saddened, though not entirely amazed, to hear that these unintended consequences have already taken root.

  6. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    Mike — Pennsylvania state law, like most (if not all) states in the U.S., requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in any crosswalk. (Enforcement can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another, but the actual laws are generally surprisingly similar from state to state.) Also, it should be noted that the law provides for a crosswalk at every at-grade street crossing unless signs indicate otherwise, regardless of whether crosswalk stripes have been painted on the road surface. Any painted crosswalk or posted “yield to pedestrians” sign is provided merely as a courtesy, both to remind drivers that pedestrians have a right to cross the road and, in the case of the pavement markings, to make it crystal clear from a distance where the accepted pedestrian crossing is at a particular intersection.

    For their part, pedestrians must not enter the roadway on the crosswalk when “a vehicle is so close as to constitute a hazard”.

    PennDOT has posted the appropriate section of the PA state code as part of a broader set of Internet resources intended to improve pedestrian safety:

    If the general import of these laws is not known to most drivers, either by teaching or common sense, then there is a real and obvious need for education in this regard. Frankly, this should be a mandatory part of driver’s education classes and licensing tests; I have an Iowa license, where my driver’s education class briefly mentioned these laws. I don’t know what Iowa’s written test asks, since it was waived as a result of my high grade in that driver’s education class. But it appears that something needs to be done to inform and/or remind most existing drivers of their responsibilities to pedestrians crossing the road, in addition to any regulatory changes that might be appropriate.

  7. 0
    Wondering about the Inn ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, why are students even housed where their route to the campus puts them at jeopardy? Wouldn’t Mary Lyon be a better location for the proposed inn on campus and use the site currently proposed for the inn as another dorm?

  8. 0
    Mike says:

    I am not a Swarthmore student, but I live in Wallingford and travel that stretch of Yale Ave every day. I’ve always taken extra care going through the intersection of Yale and Harvard because the exact rules are not clear to me. Adding to the confusion is that further up the road, where Yale and Rutgers intersect, it is clearly marked that, per state law, motorists must yield to any pedestrians. Are we expected to handle the Yale and Harvard walkway similar or differently? I’ve always wondered about that. I see no markings that indicate that we are. Those who attend the borough meeting might seek some clarity on that point.
    The problem is that local motorists don’t feel that they have to yield, whereas pedestrians might have a different expectation. The town where I attended college had an intersection that required motorists to yield. Town residents knew of the rule, but tourists did not, and we always had accidents during tourist season. I think the situation at Yale and Harvard is similar in that different people are thinking different things.
    I agree that some type of changes are required for the safety of all involved. I would also ask those crossing the intersection on foot to exercise reasonable caution. Even at 30 mph and under, there is not a lot of reaction time from the bottom of the hill to Yale and Harvard.
    My best wishes to Mairin for a speedy recovery.

  9. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    That is excellent news, Lauren! Many thanks to Mairin’s mother for passing the word along.

    If someone is actively petitioning PennDOT and felt it would be helpful, I’d be willing to help pull together a number of current and former ML RAs to sign onto a strongly-worded letter of support. It’d be a small contribution but might prove useful, and it’s about all I can think of that I can personally offer to the cause.

  10. 0
    andrew says:

    I am proud to go to a college where the community of people so strong and thoughtful. Although I have not personally sent Mairin a card, my wishes for her health and well being are with her. This campus of people is so amazing, the support we have for each other is unmatched anywhere and I think we should all take pride in that. Get Well Soon Mairin!

  11. 0
    Lauren Stokes ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Hey everyone, just wanted to update you with some good news about Mairin herself, with some excerpts from an e-mail sent by Mairin’s mom:

    “Mairin is showing clear signs of improvement. She has been taken off all medication for sedation, pain and infection. She was able to tolerate an MRI which confirmed that she has no additional injuries… She has been moving more and her eyes are tracking people who enter the room, which indicates that she can hear. She is, however, still in a coma.”

    “As the encumberances of tubes and machines have been reduced, their places have been taken by cards, photos and gifts of love and encouragement. She is somewhat of a celebrity. One nurse tonight told us in 10 years in the unit, she has never seen anything like it.”

    Please keep us informed about developments you know about, so that we can keep sharing them with you. Thanks.

  12. 0
    James Totri says:

    Swarthmore College administrators did not respond diligently enough to the calls from students for safer conditions at the crossing … there must be some accountability…

  13. 0
    Parent says:

    The borough website says the mtg starts at 7:30 PM.

    I really hope people from the college can attend and speak to all the issues raised in this thread. So important.

  14. 0
    Taleah says:

    This is so very sad. Mairin, everyone is pulling and praying for you. Keep hanging in there! Best wishes and thoughts to Mairin’s family.

  15. 0
    JJ England says:

    I also would like to know more of the specifics about that traffic study. Did the need for a stop sign or traffic control device take into account the significant number of pedestrians that cross that intersection every day, including the 100+ students that live in ML, or were only cars taken into account? Thanks for the link to that older daily gazette article Lucas. As a prior resident of ML, I agree that this intersection is notoriously dangerous. On my freshman move in day, some of the RAs / CAs had written a suggestion on the sidewalk right next to that intersection for how best to cross Yale Ave. The suggestion half-jokingly stated “think leapfrogger” (as in the game from several years ago…a quick-loading example of the game is at

    When the borough ran their accident statistics, did they include the bicyclist (also a freshman in ML) who was also hit at that exact same intersection three years ago? This prior accident was not a fluke and many of us recognized the danger of that intersection and knew that it could have happened to any of us. Our RA at the time actually took the time to write the Borough Council to log a formal complaint about that intersection…for everyone’s information here is the response she received three years ago:

    “You are correct that that part of Yale Avenue is owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a ‘state highway.’ For this
    reason, the Borough cannot unilaterally install lights or signs at the
    intersection. Nor can the Borough reduce the speed limit that PennDOT
    has set on that stretch of the road, which is now 35 m.p.h. On the
    other hand, the Borough can request that PennDOT take action. In my
    experience, a request like this will normally trigger a formal study by
    PennDOT. I can’t predict exactly what PennDOT will do or conclude, or
    when it will take action. Generally speaking, PennDOT has a policy of
    facilitating the ‘free flow of vehicular traffic’ even at the expense of
    pedestrian traffic. Meanwhile, the Borough Police Department will continue to conduct regular patrols in the area.”

    In other words, something can be done by PennDot but they need to be pressured by us, the town, and/or the college in order for them to take action. The sign in the middle of the road may go a long way in reminding cars to slow down and respect pedestrian traffic at that intersection, as they are legally required to do but I do hope that even more can be done. If not impeding the free flow of traffic is a priority of PennDot (meaning that they are averse to the idea of a stop sign or traffic light), then I feel that a device such as what is installed in the town of Bryn Mawr on the Main Line could significantly improve the safety of this intersection while only stopping traffic when necessary. This device allows a pedestrian to press a button that activates a series of bright, flashing warning lights in the crosswalk that alerts oncoming traffic that they must stop for crossing pedestrians. Ideally, such a device would also be linked to warning light prior to or on the blind corner so that traffic is alerted before they are right on top of the crosswalk.

    I’m not positive, but I feel that it might be helpful if students could show up at the Borough Council meeting tonight. These meetings are held in the town hall (same building as the town library / police station / fire station). Does anybody know what time the meeting starts?

  16. 0
    Parent says:

    This is an excellent article, & thank you for the information many of us have been trying to obtain–I hope Mairin continues to improve.
    As parents with a daughter in ML, the comments were especially relevant & I must admit, upsetting. We hope that something will be done–soon. I especially appreciated the young woman who took issue with the side-talk about ‘personal responsibility’. Yes, the kids should be wearing helmets, but the description of the breathless dash across that intersection makes it quite clear that this is beside the point.
    I hope the young man who started the petition does not back off –one accident is too many. We are glad to hear the school has been so supportive and is taking action.

  17. 0
    Parent says:

    I hope that members of the Borough Traffic Council are reading these posted comments, or that a College representative to the Council will forward them on. These are important firsthand testimonies to the danger of that intersection. Lucas’ link (above) to the 2005 “story” of the Eat-a-Ford Invitational underscores the longstanding awareness of the seriousness of the situation. Yet nothing has been done to protect students and others. What are the College and Borough waiting for?

  18. 0
    Sarah K says:

    Anyone could be hit just as easily while walking; last year I was nearly clipped a good number of times… it’s the sheer speed of the cars and their utter disregard for the crosswalk and pedestrians in it. Just because we’ve managed to barely avoid major accidents until now doesn’t mean there is no need for a stop sign. It seems sick to me that my fellow MLers and I had to run across that street twice a day for a year, being thankful we managed to get to the other side each time. More than once a car actually sped up while I was in the crosswalk to beat me across. I’ve also had one car stop to let me through the crosswalk, and other cars were still speeding through in the second lane. It shouldn’t be a shock (as it was all three or four times last year) when a car stops for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. I hope Mairin has a safe and quick recovery, and that there are measures implemented to stop this from happening in the future.

  19. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    Thank you for this update.

    Yes, clearly this should be a wake-up call for those students who have taken a lackadaisical attitude toward guarding their safety while walking or biking around campus, and especially when traveling back and forth from ML.

    And a middle of the road sign is a good first step, to the extent that such a sign will hopefully help remind everyone of the need to keep safety as a high priority. While the borough doesn’t have jurisdiction to change any regulations at the intersection, it should be possible for the borough police and public safety to work together in a concerted effort at speed enforcement — and at enforcing the stop sign for bicycles on Harvard. It’s been far too long that a sizable minority of drivers and bicyclists have taken a cavalier attitude toward obeying the law.

    Is there a technical definition used to determine what incidents are recorded as “accidents” in the state database? Reading that this was the only accident at Harvard & Yale since 2002 brings to mind an incident in which a car caused minor injuries to a pedestrian crossing at that intersection just two or three years ago. Also, when did the state conduct its traffic study? Did that study record the speeds of motorists on that stretch of Yale in addition to their numbers? If so, at what location relative to the intersection was motorist speed measured?

    Not to absolve the responsibility of anyone behaving recklessly around that stretch of road, be they on foot or on bike or in car or in 15 passenger van or whatever — but if the conditions at that intersection are considered safe for pedestrians, I’d like to see how “safe” is being defined. To my mind, a “safe” intersection doesn’t perpetually generate jokes about the difficulty of a safe crossing, as that intersection has for years. (One example: )

  20. 0
    Rachael Mansbach says:

    I am going to assume you don’t live in ML, because if you did, you would know that bike helmet or no bike helmet, the crosswalk is extremely dangerous. I have nearly been hit on foot when I was standing on the sidewalk. There is very poor visibility for both bikes and cars; in fact if you start to walk or bike across just as a car comes out from the bottom of the hill, there is a very good possibility you will be hit. The cars are going about thirty miles over the speed limit and they do not stop for pedestrians.

  21. 0
    Your buds says:

    Mairin, The outpouring of love and support for you and your family at last night’s walk on the track was awesome. We wish you could have seen it yourself, but we trust you feel it! Your friends who are away at school lit candles and walked wherever they were-from Maine to Louisiana and everywhere in between. And we are so glad Swarthmore students and administration want to help too-but then to know you is to love you. Godspeed, dear friend.

  22. 0
    James says:

    While we clearly all wish Mairin the speediest recovery, students must learn from this tragedy: it is imperative to wear your helmet and bike responsibly. It is senseless to crusade for change in a community before recognizing some degree of personal responsibility.

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