Safety event focuses on visibility for Tar Heels on foot

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center will work to educate pedestrians around campus today on the importance of visibility as a part of Yield to Heels, an on-campus pedestrian safety education campaign.

The upcoming weekend marks the end of daylight-saving time, which will bring a decrease in daylight during the evening hours. To encourage visibility, Yield to Heels volunteers will distribute educational fliers and retro-reflective items to pedestrians at crosswalks across campus. Retro-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 between 9 a.m. and 2 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; and
  • Manning Drive between the School of Dentistry and the Thurston Bowles Building.

“Pedestrians walking at night are at a greater risk of being involved in a crash, as factors such as glare and low visibility make it more difficult for motorists to see them,” said David Harkey, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

Coordinated by the UNC Department of Public Safety and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, Yield to Heels also aims to clear up myths about traffic safety for both pedestrians and drivers.

For example, 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.

“This collaborative effort reflects our intention of instilling in both drivers and pedestrians a focus on safety,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jeff McCracken, deputy chief of UNC’s Department of Public Safety. “At this time of year, the campus community stages many large-scale special events, and with waning daylight, there is an acute need to re-emphasize a universal understanding of pedestrian safety practices.”

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.

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 conducts pedestrian safety classes for campus groups, distributes citations to motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, and distributes citations to pedestrians who violate pedestrian laws.

Over the past year, the TAPS Team conducted 41 safety programs, made 103 new liaison contacts regarding pedestrian safety throughout the University community, and issued 304 speed related citations to campus drivers.

The Pedestrian Safety Committee was established after 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. The committee has been responsible for numerous campus improvements and is pursuing the development of pedestrian bridges over South Road.

The Department of Public Safety offers the following safety tips to pedestrians:

Be aware
Look across all lanes before crossing. Even though one vehicle has stopped, another may pass in another lane.
Be safe
Don’t assume vehicles can stop. Gauge the flow of traffic before stepping out onto the road and wait if necessary.
Be considerate
Establish eye contact with drivers before crossing.

The department also offers the following safety tips to drivers:

Be aware
Before entering a crosswalk area, be prepared to stop if pedestrians are present.
Be safe
Do not overtake and pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.
Be considerate
Establish eye contact with pedestrians.

More information on pedestrian safety is available at or

- 30 -

UNC Department of Public Safety contact: Randy Young, (919) 962-1502
UNC Highway Safety Research Center contacts: Katy Jones, (919) 843-7007 or
Delisa Davis, (919) 843-4859

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

To get news updates delivered to your email account, sign up for our mailing list.