"Yield to Heels Day" Showcases Pedestrian Safety on Campus

Press Release - For immediate use

October 15, 2002

CHAPEL HILL — A pedestrian safety awareness event to help the Carolina campus become a safer place to walk and bicycle will be held on Tuesday, October 15th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The "Yield to Heels" campaign hopes to clear up myths and give correct facts about pedestrian safety. Developed by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the UNC Department of Public Safety, the "Yield to Heels" campaign focuses on three messages for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists: Be Aware. Be Considerate. Be Safe.

As part of the on-going campaign, volunteers wearing "Yield to Heels" t-shirts will be stationed with message signs at four crosswalk locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 15th. Volunteers will be distributing information fliers about the campaign at the pedestrian crosswalks on South Road by the Bell Tower, Pittsboro Street across from the State Employee's Credit Union, Ridge Road by the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, and Manning Drive by the School of Dentistry.

"Many pedestrians and bicyclists believe they have the right of way, but that isn't always true," said Doug Robertson, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC). "If a pedestrian crosses the street at a place other than a designated crosswalk or intersection, the vehicle actually has the right-of way, and it is the pedestrian's responsibility to yield to the vehicle. So when we say 'Yield to Heels' we aren't just telling drivers to yield to pedestrians, we are also trying to let pedestrians know when they need to yield to drivers."

Thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Governor Highway Safety Program, the UNC Department of Public Safety established a three-member traffic and pedestrian safety unit in July 2001. Since its inception, the unit has issued more than 150 citations to motorists for failure to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, and 316 speeding citations (mainly in areas with a high volume of pedestrians). The unit has also conducted over 145 pedestrian safety programs in residence halls, fraternities, and sororities.

"Education and awareness must be used along with enforcement," said Chief Derek Poarch, director of the UNC Department of Public Safety. "Pedestrian safety is a top concern, and with the university's growth, we will continue to emphasize the importance of being safe when walking around campus."

Following the 1999 death of Dr. Fusayoshi Matsukawa, a UNC postdoctoral dentistry fellow who was struck by a car crossing Manning Drive at a marked crosswalk, a 14-member pedestrian safety committee was formed to report recommendations for campus pedestrian safety improvements to the university chancellor. Since its formation, the committee's work has resulted in several traffic engineering improvements on campus, including:

  • Upgrades to pedestrian crosswalks including zebra-stripping on roads and fluorescent green pedestrian crossing and warning signs at all campus crosswalks.
  • Mid-block traffic islands on South Road in front of the Carolina Union and in front of the Bell Tower that give pedestrians a refuge when crossing the street and allow them to cross just one direction of traffic at a time.
  • A solar-powered flashing light at the Manning Drive crossing near the UNC School of Dentistry.
  • Sidewalk additions at the entrance to UNC Hospitals.
  • Landscape barriers next to the Craige parking deck between Manning Drive and the sidewalk to prevent pedestrians from cutting into the street to cross at mid-block.

"Even with the improvements, it is important that both pedestrians and drivers use good judgment," said Poarch. "No matter who has the right-of-way, we all need to be aware, safe and considerate. Pedestrian safety is everyone's responsibility."

The UNC Department of Public Safety offers the following safety tips:


  • Be aware. Look across all lanes you must cross. Even though one vehicle has stopped, another may pass in another lane.
  • Be safe. Do not assume drivers can stop. Gauge the flow of traffic before you step out onto the road and wait if necessary.
  • Be considerate. Establish eye contact with drivers before crossing.
  • Drivers:

  • Be aware when entering a crosswalk area. Be prepared to stop.
  • Be safe. Do not overtake and pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians on your side of the roadway.
  • Be considerate. Establish eye contact with pedestrians.
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    UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Renee Morin, (919) 962-7803 or morin@claire.hsrc.unc.edu

    For more information on pedestrian and bicycle safety, visit the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

    Media Contacts

    Caroline Dickson

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