The Chapel Hill Police Department is running monthly pedestrian safety enforcement operations in an effort to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths in Chapel Hill.
In September, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and a student on a bicycle was struck by a dump truck on Cameron Avenue. Earlier this year in January, a cyclist who was in a crash on Franklin Street later died, and a December crash on Estes Drive left two middle school students seriously injured.
Each month, the four dates of the safety enforcement operations are released on the Town of Chapel Hill's website. On these dates, residents can expect to see more patrol presence in traffic areas with higher pedestrian activity. The patrols are focused on preventing speeding and improving yield rates at crosswalks.
Alex Carrasquillo, the community safety public information officer for Chapel Hill Police and Fire departments, said that sending out days for when more officers will be on patrol may seem counterintuitive if the department is trying to catch people speeding but their goal is more to educate people on the issue of speeding.
The department's education tactics include tweets that detail the number of people caught speeding and the speeds at which they were caught, he said.
“If we can give notice that we're going to be out enforcing these laws and get people to think about that on their drive, they're probably more likely to think about it more often when they get behind the wheel of the car,” Carrasquillo said.
Speeding is a problem that has steadily increased over the last decade, said Seth LaJeunesse, a senior research associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
“Chapel Hill is also a pretty transient population,” Bergen Watterson, the transportation planning manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said. “I think there's maybe 40,000 people that commute into Chapel Hill every day, so we can do all of the education in the world and it's still people that live outside of town that are coming in late for work.”
Watterson said the structures of the roads in Chapel Hill also make it easier for drivers to speed in community areas, which highly increases the chances of injury and death among pedestrians.