In an event called "Yield to Heels," volunteers stationed at four crosswalks throughout campus distributed logo T-shirts and informative fliers with coupons for local businesses. The event was part of the Department of Public Safety's ongoing pedestrian safety campaign.
The DPS and the UNC-system's Highway Safety Research Center initiated the campaign in response to a pedestrian fatality that occurred more than two years ago on Manning Drive. In November 1999, Fusayoshi Matsukawa, a UNC postdoctoral dentistry fellow, died from injuries after being hit by a car at a marked crosswalk.
"It really began back in November 1999, when we had the fatal accident," said Doug Robertson, director of the HSRC. "This was what brought pedestrian safety to everyone's attention."
After the incident, a subsequent report showed that during the five-year period from 1995 until the end of 1999, there were 57 on-campus, police-reported accidents involving a pedestrian and a vehicle. In the 32 months since the fatal accident, there have been 24 pedestrian accidents reported, Robertson said.
Other responses to the fatality included then-interim Chancellor Bill McCoy's formation of a 14-member pedestrian safety committee and later the creation of a three-member traffic and pedestrian safety unit within DPS in July 2001.
Robertson said that since then, the unit has issued more than 90 on-campus citations to motorists who failed to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, as well as citations for speeding and other violations.
The Yield to Heels event, which was initiated by the HSRC and approved by the pedestrian safety committee, aims to make people think about the dual role they play in practicing street smarts, Robertson said.
"Most of us are both drivers and pedestrians at one time or another," he said. "Pedestrian and travel safety is everyone's responsibility."
DPS Director Derek Poarch also emphasized a shared responsibility for safe travel on campus. "It's designed to be another program where we bring pedestrian safety to the forefront of people's minds," he said. "If you make assumptions that vehicles are going to stop for you when you step out in a place without a crosswalk, you're certainly jeopardizing your safety."
Freshman Shannon Heery, who volunteered at the Bell Tower crosswalk from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., said she thought the program might make students more cautious. "I think it's good to make people aware, especially because I almost get hit every day of my life coming from Hinton James (Residence Hall)," Heery said.
Robertson encouraged travelers to take their time and to be considerate of others. They should pause, look and make eye contact, he said. "Realize that others are trying to get from point A to point B as well."
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