Duke Police recently completed its participation in the "Watch for Me NC" campaign, a program aimed at reducing the number of pedestrians hit and injured by vehicles. Throughout October, Duke officers stationed themselves at five random crosswalk areas around campus to monitor traffic as pedestrians tried to cross the street. Only 26 percent of vehicles stopped, following state law that requires motorists yield to pedestrians.
"One of the things we learned was the lack of awareness drivers had when it came to pedestrians," said Eric Hester, crime prevention officer with Duke Police. "Many didn't realize they were supposed to stop, even if a pedestrian was at the crosswalk."
If a Duke officer encountered a visitor or Duke community member improperly crossing the street or a driver who failed to yield to a pedestrian, the officer stopped him or her to chat about safety precautions and offered an informational brochure about pedestrian safety from the state Department of Transportation.
In 2011, the Triangle area was listed as the 13th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians by Transportation for America, a nationwide organization that focuses on transportation and public safety. According to the group, Durham County had 49 transportation-related pedestrian deaths between 2000 and 2009.
During the "Watch for Me NC" campaign, police departments in Durham, Raleigh, Carroboro and at Duke issued 185 warnings and 83 citations to drivers.
Duke officers spent an hour on six days in October monitoring traffic unannounced at key crosswalk points throughout Duke. Only 112 of 426 vehicles yielded to pedestrians. Yield percentages at crosswalks ranged from 15 percent to 49 percent.
"With so many students, employees, patients, and visitors on campus, it's important to create awareness of this issue so we can offer a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere," Hester said. "The last couple weeks I've noticed that we're starting to see motorists stop more often for pedestrians."
Even though the statewide pedestrian safety campaign has concluded, Duke Police will continue efforts to raise awareness. In addition to five locations officers monitored around Central and West campuses, additional observation times may be set up at East Campus and more locations near West Campus.