In response to an epidemic plaguing pedestrian safety around the Truckee Meadows, University Police Services, in partnership with the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, has launched a new campaign to get students off their cell phones and pay attention while they cross the street.
Red Zones will be painted at crosswalks on Virginia Street from 10th to 15th Streets to encourage students to “Be safe! Look up from your phone in this zone.” By using red, a color wildly unpopular on campus but often associated with life and death, University Police Services hope to signal students that it’s time to put down their phones and pay attention to their surroundings.
“Getting students to look up from their phones while they’re walking across campus is a real challenge,” University Assistant Vice President and Chief of Police Todd Renwick said. “We needed something that’s literally in their face calling attention to what we’re trying to do. Our hope is that by seeing the sidewalk change color to red while they’re looking down at their device, they are triggered to pay attention and look up from their phones.”
Renwick added that many people tend to blame drivers in pedestrian/vehicle accidents but that pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility.
In addition to the sidewalk painting, University Police Services and University students will be using bull horns to call out distracted pedestrians, encouraging them to look up, pay attention and cross the street safely. In addition, they will offer educational handouts and materials as part of the event. These “call-out events” will continue weekly throughout the semester, changing locations and times to keep students aware and alert. Officers will be providing vehicle and pedestrian enforcement during these events as well.
“With the community’s heightened awareness of pedestrian/vehicle accidents this year, it’s time to do something a bit more drastic to call the community’s attention to this ongoing problem,” Renwick said.
University student and ASUN Director of Campus Wellness Claudia Feil agreed the statistics are alarming.
“Chief Renwick took a group of ASUN officers out to witness just how distracted students are when they’re crossing the street,” Feil said. “What we saw was really scary. People always think the driver is the one on the phone but it is literally everyone. Our goal is to get people to pay attention and to re-educate students on the basics of crossing the street. Perhaps by doing this, we’ll save one or more lives.”
This effort is part of the educational programming University Police Services committed to providing as part of its Joining Forces and Pedestrian/Distracted Driving grants they received in the Fall of 2019.
“University Police Services have benefited from traffic safety funding and participated in Joining Forces for many years,” Renwick said. “We appreciate the support in educating our population, as it provides a great opportunity for us to partner with our local colleagues in an effort to increase safety for all drivers and pedestrians.”