'Yield to Heels' on UNC campus October 7, 2004, to highlight pedestrian safety awareness

News Release

CHAPEL HILL — In an effort to increase pedestrian safety awareness on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and UNC Department of Public Safety will host "Yield to Heels" on Thursday, October 7, 2004.

The "Yield to Heels" campaign aims to clear up myths about traffic and pedestrians and provide useful information on pedestrian safety to the university community. The campaign focuses on three messages for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists: Be aware, be considerate and be safe.

As part of the ongoing campaign, volunteers on Thursday will wear "Yield to Heels" T-shirts and public safety officers will be stationed with message signs at four crosswalk locations. The event will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Volunteers will distribute free T-shirts and information fliers at the following crosswalks:

  • South Road at the Bell Tower
  • South Road by the Student Recreation Center
  • South Columbia Street at the big fraternity court
  • Manning Drive between the School of Dentistry and the Thurston-Bowles Building

"At UNC, we are fostering an atmosphere where students, faculty, staff and visitors will know that this campus is a place where pedestrians are valued and safety is a priority," said Dr. Robert Shelton, UNC provost and executive vice chancellor. "With over 36,000 students, faculty and staff on campus, it is vital for members of the university community to be sensitive to the needs of their traveling counterparts."

Shelton will hand out fliers with student volunteers between 11:30 a.m. and noon at the South Road crosswalk by the Bell Tower.

"While the total number of pedestrian deaths in the United States has decreased dramatically in the past 20 years, they still account for 11 percent of motor vehicle deaths," said Doug Robertson, director of the Highway Safety Research Center at UNC. "Our goal is to give pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers the information to make safe decisions when traveling both on and off campus."

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program, the Department of Public Safety established a three-member traffic and pedestrian safety unit in July 2001. Since its inception, more than 590 citations have been issued to motorists for failure to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks and 894 speeding citations (mainly in areas with a high volume of pedestrians) have been written.

The unit also has conducted more than 389 pedestrian safety programs in residence halls, fraternities, sororities and other campus groups.

"These numbers certainly underscore our emphasis on pedestrian safety," said Chief Derek Poarch, director of the Department of Public Safety. "But while these statistics are impressive, the ways in which we achieve our overall goals are ever-evolving. Only through continued vigilance during this time of unprecedented campus growth can we continue to create and maintain a pedestrian-friendly environment for all campus community members."

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

  • Upgrades to pedestrian crosswalks including zebra-striping on roads and fluorescent yellow pedestrian crossing and warning signs at all campus crosswalks.
  • Mid-block traffic islands on South Road in front of the Frank Porter Graham Student 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 School of Dentistry.
  • Sidewalk additions at the UNC Hospitals entrance.
  • Sidewalks placed behind a planting strip and bollards with chains placed along portions of Manning Drive to discourage crossing at uncontrolled locations.
  • Plan and design of new building projects that incorporates pedestrian safety features.

"Even with the completed and planned improvements, it is essential to pedestrian safety that we emphasize continued education, awareness and good judgment," said Lt. Matthew Ferguson, supervisor of the Department of Public Safety's Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit.

"It is important that we continue our mission to educate the community about the rights of pedestrians and motorists under North Carolina General Statutes and, with that knowledge, encourage a collaborative effort between motorists and pedestrians to provide for a safer campus. This effort includes enforcement."

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

Pedestrians:

  • Be aware Look across all lanes you must cross. Even though one vehicle has stopped, another may pass in another lane. (look both ways)
  • Be safe Do not assume vehicles 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.

For more information on pedestrian safety, click on www.hsrc.unc.edu or www.dps.unc.edu.

MEDIA CONTACTS

EVENT SPOKESPERSONS:

Chief Derek Poarch, Director of the UNC Department of Public Safety: 919-966-5730

Dr. Doug Robertson, Director of HSRC: 919-962-8703

UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Katy Jones, (919) 843-7007 (office), (919) 883-7848 (cell) or jones@hsrc.unc.edu

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson
919.962.5835
dickson@hsrc.unc.edu

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