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Jaywalking fine goes into effect

Violators will be charged $166

Freshman Anna van Venrooy crosses in front of a “do not walk” signal on campus.  UNC is planning to increase enforcement of jaywalking.
Freshman Anna van Venrooy crosses in front of a “do not walk” signal on campus. UNC is planning to increase enforcement of jaywalking.

Jaywalking, previously punished by verbal warnings, will now be punishable with a hefty $166 fine.

In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the UNC Department of Public Safety has begun the new campaign, similar to an initiative in the 2006-07 school year, which resulted in 19 pedestrian citations.

Before 2006, pedestrians were only given a citation if their action caused a traffic accident, said DPS spokesman Randy Young.

But now, any type of jaywalking can be punished by a fine.

If cited, $141 of the $166 fine will go toward court costs. The rest will go to DPS, but Young said this is not a revenue-oriented initiative.

“What we are really trying to do here is improve campus pedestrian safety,” he said.

The safety initiative has a two-pronged focus — motorists and pedestrians. By cracking down on speeding, Young said, they handle motorists. Now, he said, citing pedestrians will hopefully make them more responsible as well.

“Pedestrian safety hinges on safe practices from both motorists and pedestrians,” Young said.

With construction projects continuing on campus, the sun setting earlier and the football and basketball seasons overlapping, Young said the initiative comes at a time of concern for pedestrian safety.

UNC student Sabrina Dunham, who often drives on campus, said she always has to be on the lookout for pedestrians when she drives.

“I’ve had some students jump out all of a sudden,” she said.

Another student, Paige Ganem, said she thinks jaywalking is less of an issue on campus as it is on Franklin Street.

“There are crosswalks every few feet on campus,” Ganem said.

Ganem added that she thinks this issue is hard to enforce, especially with the amount of pedestrians trying to cross the street during class changes.

“Students need to get to class,” Ganem said. “People are in a hurry and sometimes drive through crosswalks during class changes.”

Young said the initiative will focus on pedestrians whose actions impede traffic, not those who simply walk into a crosswalk after the “walk” symbol has turned off.

Young said he hopes to not have any citations.

“But a citation is less regrettable than an injury,” he added.

The DPS is also involved with the Highway Safety Research Center’s Yield to Heels program, which aims to promote pedestrian safety by distributing information through T-shirts, stickers, reflectors for bike riders and safety tips.

The program is held once each semester, with representatives stationed at prominent areas such as the South Road crosswalk in front of the Bell Tower.

Young said he is unsure as to how long the campaign will last, but that it mainly depends on the results.

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“We want people to keep their wits about them,” Young said.

Contact the University desk at udesk@unc.edu.