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The Daily Tar Heel

DPS Starts Awareness Campaign

Residence halls, fraternities and sororities will receive presentations on pedestrian safety on campus roads.

The campaign, run by the Department of Public Safety, is intended to raise awareness about pedestrian safety by combining intersection patrols with educational presentations in residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses.

Organizers hope the campaign will be a proactive, preventive step to avoid a repeat of the pedestrian death that occurred two years ago.

In November 1999, Fusayoshi Matsukawa, a dentistry fellow, died from injuries after being hit by a vehicle on Manning Drive. "That tragedy brought the issue home to everybody on campus," said Doug Robertson, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, which helped develop the campaign.

"The goal is to make travel safe regardless of if people are walking, biking or driving," Robertson said.

The patrols and presentations will be conducted by the three officers in the new Traffic and Pedestrian Safety unit of DPS: Bill Nato, Wilbur Fike and Ben Kotin. The unit was created in April with funding from the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The awareness campaign is supported by University funding.

The new patrols are concentrated at three intersections: Manning Drive at the UNC School of Dentistry, South Road at the Bell Tower and Pittsboro Street at the State Employees' Credit Union.

And three main pedestrian safety tips will be emphasized during DPS's presentations to students: be visible, be predictable and communicate with the driver -- tips that many UNC students don't follow.

"I'm not really that cautious (when crossing the street), but I haven't had any problems," said sophomore Ethan Earle, glancing at the traffic he just crossed on South Road.

Officials say pedestrians indeed need to pay more attention when crossing.

"One of the most common mistakes pedestrians make is seeing a `walk' signal and then assuming they're totally safe simply because the signal says `walk,'" said Charles Zegeer, associate director of the Highway Safety Research Center.

In addition to the pedestrian safety tips, four tips for motorists have been developed for the fall campaign: slow down, expect the unexpected, take in what's going on and yield to pedestrians. "Some of our biggest problems are motorists not yielding to pedestrians," Nato said.

The second part of the campaign, set to be unveiled in the spring, will feature a campaign logo, slogan and theme. Other potential tactics could include a link on the DPS Web site to motor vehicle law and pedestrian safety information included with parking permits, Nato said.

But while the campaign is important to counter the problems stemming from heavy traffic on campus, officials say UNC's campus is no worse than any other similar school.

Robertson said, "There's nothing unique about the the UNC campus that makes it any more dangerous than any other university of our size and situation."

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