"Yield to Heels" campaign aims to reduce number of pedestrians hit on UNC campus

News Release

CHAPEL HILL, NC; JANUARY 26, 2004 — In 2003, there were 10 pedestrian-involved collisions on the UNC campus, and an additional victim was added to the statistics just last week. In an effort to increase campus awareness of pedestrian safety, the Highway Safety Research Center and UNC's Department of Public Safety will host a "Yield to Heels" Pedestrian Safety Awareness Day Wednesday, March 17, 2004 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. The 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 three crosswalk locations throughout the event. Volunteers will be distributing information fliers about the campaign at the pedestrian crosswalks on South Road by the Student Recreation Center, S. Columbia St. at Big Fraternity Ct., and Manning Drive between the School of Dentistry and S. Columbia St.

"When we say 'Yield to Heels' we aren't just telling drivers to yield to pedestrians, we are also warning pedestrians to yield to drivers," reminds Doug Robertson, director of the Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill . "Many students think they always have the right of way on campus, but when crossing the street at a place other than a designated crosswalk or intersection, the car or bus actually has the right-of way and the pedestrian needs to yield to the vehicle."

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, more than 219 citations have been issued to motorists for failure to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, and 642 speeding citations (mainly in areas with a high volume of pedestrians) have been written. The unit has also conducted over 294 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 Lt. Bill Nato, supervisor of the UNC Dept. of Public Safety's Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit. "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.


  • 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.

Contact: Shawna Browne, public relations coordinator at HSRC, 919-962-7803. Photos and logos are available.

UNC Highway Safety Research Center web site: www.hsrc.unc.edu

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center : www.pedbike.org

UNC Department of Public Safety: www.dps.unc.edu

About the Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC)

The Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) at UNC conducts interdisciplinary research aimed at reducing deaths, injuries, and related societal costs of roadway crashes. Research examines motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian crashes, taking into account human, vehicular, roadway and environmental factors. The HSRC strives to translate its research knowledge into practical interventions and programs that can be applied at local, state, national, and international levels. Originally established in 1965 by the North Carolina General Assembly, the HSRC has shaped the field of transportation safety and remained a leading transportation research institute for nearly 40 years.

Led by Director Dr. Douglas Robertson, HSRC's team of established researchers and dedicated staff complete an average of over 40 research projects yearly. Center researchers are continually investigating issues that may affect future legislation and policies, including: driver distraction, sleep deprivation, Graduated Driver Licensing, the role of alcohol in motor vehicle crashes, elderly driving issues, occupant restraint use, as well as commercial vehicle safety and enforcement.

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

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