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Local police discuss strategies for pedestrian safety

Recently there have been several hit and runs between cars and pedestrians or cyclists in Chapel Hill. 

Recently there have been several hit and runs between cars and pedestrians or cyclists in Chapel Hill. 

A motor vehicle crash on North Greensboro Street at 4 p.m. Monday resulted in serious injury to a cyclist. 

Jacob Hart, 18, was charged with felony hit-and-run and after the incident. The cyclist was treated at UNC Hospitals and was later released.

According to the Town of Chapel Hill, there have been 10 reported motor-vehicle accidents involving a pedestrian in Chapel Hill since April 1, 2017.

Carrboro Police Capt. Chris Atack said the Carrboro Police Department has three main strategies to prevent incidents like this from happening. They focus on educating pedestrians and motorists about the law, enforcing the law and engineering safe roads and crosswalks.

“When we have all three working together, we have a good environment for voluntary compliance, which is what everyone wants,” Atack said.

Enforcement comes with its challenges,  said Ran Northam, the community safety communications specialist for Chapel Hill police.

“There are always new distractions; there are the cell phones that people are looking at while they’re walking. There are cell phones while people are driving too,” Northam said.

Distracted driving in Chapel Hill has caused motor vehicle accidents with pedestrians. UNC-Chapel Hill junior Brittany Hughes was struck by a car last March at the intersection of Mason Farm Road and South Columbia Street 

Hughes said she was running on a crosswalk when a car turning right failed to yield and ran into her. 

The drivers and witnesses helped her off the road. While she had no major injuries except for a fractured foot, she wasn’t able to participate in the marathon she had trained for months for.

“I think the thing I struggled most with was that yesterday I was literally in shape to run a marathon and now I can’t walk,” Hughes said.

She still feels the effects of the incident and says she is more cautious about driving and walking on campus. Hughes said she encourages pedestrians and drivers to always pay attention in a busy university town like Chapel Hill.

“You could really hurt somebody [if you’re not paying attention],” she said. “I was just super lucky with the limited injuries that I had.” 

Atack said there are community-wide efforts to decrease the risk of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents.

“I think when you see on a daily basis how many vehicles, how many bicyclists, how many pedestrians, especially in the downtown area are operating, it’s incredibly safe,”  he said. “Where we have concerns is where people are not paying attention or not following the rules.”


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