This year, the Greensboro Police Department, along with UNCG Police and North Carolina A&T Police have been chosen to participate in the “Watch For Me NC” pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign.
The campaign took applicants from areas statewide. Among those chosen were Wilmington/UNC-W, Jackson County/Western Carolina University, Pitt County/Greenville and Watauga County/Appalachian State University.
I was surprised to learn that North Carolina is one of the least safe states in the nation for walking and bicycling. Vehicles strike more than 2,400 pedestrians and 960 bicyclists every year in the state. On average, about 160 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists are killed.
To try to put that into a national perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2012, about 76,000 pedestrians were injured in crashes across the nation, with 4,743 being killed. Fatalities were highest in California with 612, and lowest in South Dakota, with two. Fatalities per 100,000 population were highest in Delaware (2.94). North Carolina had 197 pedestrian fatalities that year, a rate of 2.02 per 100,000 population.
The Watch For Me NC website includes many safety tips for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. A few include:
- Look for cars in all directions—including those turning left or right—before crossing the street; never assume a driver will stop.
- Be careful crossing multiple lanes of traffic. Make sure each lane of traffic is clear before you cross.
- Enhance your visibility at night. Walk in well-lit areas, carry a flashlight or wear something reflective, such as stickers or armbands, to be more visible.
- Avoid distraction. More and more we see people texting or talking on cell phones when crossing streets; this diminishes the ability of your two key senses—hearing and seeing—that are used to detect and avoid cars. So particularly when crossing streets, put down the phone for a few seconds.
- Wear a helmet. It could save your life.
- Use a light and reflectors when bicycling at night, and be as visible as possible.
- Use all of your senses – watch and listen for cars, particularly at intersections and drive ways.
- Avoid distractions such as listening to headphones or answering phones when riding.
- Be prepared to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.
- Before making a turn, be sure the path is clear of any pedestrians.
- Slow down in areas where you are likely to find pedestrians, such as near bus stops, schools, and playgrounds.
- Avoid distractions such as food, passengers and using mobile devices. Talking and texting while driving is both dangerous and illegal in many places.
The rest can be found here.
One fundamental fact of life that I try to emphasize is that pedestrians and bicycles are small. It’s an important rule to remember whether walking, riding a bike, or driving.
Motorists need to keep in the front of their minds that they might encounter a pedestrian or biker at any time. And if you haven’t done this already, make yourself especially familiar with your vehicle’s blind spots. Learn where they are, and check them regularly as you drive. For example, a walker or biker can appear seemingly out of nowhere from behind the post between your windshield and side window.
Pedestrians and bicyclists should keep it in their minds, too, that they are hard to see. For example, when walking, make eye contact with drivers that are in a position to move into your area as you cross a street. Bicycle riders should obey all signs and signals. This includes stopping at stop signs and red lights – scooting through can get you hurt.
If we work together we can make our streets and highways safer places for all of us.