Yield to Heels event to highlight importance of nighttime visibility for pedestrians

News Release

CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will work to educate the campus' pedestrians on the importance of visibility as a part of Yield to Heels, an on-campus pedestrian safety education campaign, this Wednesday (March 22).

Nighttime presents the greatest risk of a pedestrian being involved in a crash as factors such as glare and low visibility make it more difficult for motorists to see them. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost half of pedestrian fatalities occur at night between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.

"Even a pedestrian wearing white can only be seen from about 180 feet away, which does not allow ample time for a vehicle traveling 40 mph to stop after seeing the pedestrian," says David Harkey, interim director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC).

In order to encourage visibility, Yield to Heels volunteers will be distributing educational fliers and retro-reflective items to pedestrians at crosswalks across campus. Reflective gear can be seen by motorists up to 500 feet away at nighttime, making pedestrians and bicyclists much more visible to motorists.

Volunteers will be stationed from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the following crosswalks:

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

Coordinated by HSRC and the UNC department of public safety, Yield to Heels also aims to clear up myths about traffic safety for both pedestrians and drivers. Many pedestrians believe that seeing a "walk" signal means that it is safe to walk without checking all directions for vehicles. Pedestrians should always look at all lanes and in all directions before stepping out into an intersection, including looking for turning vehicles, regardless of what the signal displays. Equally, drivers need to slow down and be ready to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

UNC has taken measures to improve pedestrian safety with the establishment of the Pedestrian Safety Committee in 1999, and the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety (TAPS) team in 2001.

"Since its inception, our TAPS team has been proactive in its efforts to communicate safety measures to both motorists and pedestrians," said Lieutenant Colonel Jeff McCracken, deputy chief of UNC's department of public safety. "This TAPS team has issued hundreds of verbal and written warnings this semester to pedestrians crossing outside of crosswalks or against signals in a manner which impedes traffic. This semester's Yield to Heels campaign coincides with our concerted efforts to increase awareness of crosswalk safety."

The North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program sponsored a grant that allowed UNC to establish the TAPS team, which actively works to provide a safer environment for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists throughout the UNC campus. This three-person team distributes citations to motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, distributes citations to pedestrians who violate pedestrian laws and conducts pedestrian safety classes for campus groups. The TAPS team issued more than 400 speeding and pedestrian related citations to motorists last year, and conducted 76 pedestrian safety programs.

The Pedestrian Safety Committee was established after the death of Dr. Fusayoshi Matsukawa, a UNC postdoctoral dentistry fellow who was struck by a car while crossing Manning Drive at a marked crosswalk. The committee has been responsible for numerous campus improvements, and is pursuing the development of pedestrian bridges over South Road.

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. (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.
  • 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.

UNC Department of Public Safety contact: Randy Young, (919) 962-1502

UNC Highway Safety Research Center: Katy Jones, (919) 843-7007

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

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