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Safety program aims to reduce Charlotte’s rising pedestrian, cyclist deaths

CMPD addresses community about traffic safety

Sgt. David Sloan of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department warns motorists and pedestrians of traffic dangers. This is the start of the "Watch For Me" campaign.
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Sgt. David Sloan of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department warns motorists and pedestrians of traffic dangers. This is the start of the "Watch For Me" campaign.

Local law enforcement is revamping efforts to promote traffic safety and reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle deaths in the city.

After an 11-year-old pedestrian died last night crossing the street in the middle of the block, Sgt. David Sloan said steps need to be taken to educate kids.

Since January, North Carolina has seen 76 pedestrian deaths – 12 of them in Charlotte. That number is already more than the area saw in any of the past few years.

Sloan said it is “very frustrating” to continue to see these deaths, when he feels there are simple preventative steps people should be taking.

“It tears me up when I go out there and have a child laying in the road because they decided to take a chance and run across the street mid-block instead of going to the crosswalk,” he said.

Local law enforcement is partnering with the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the second year of its “Watch For Me” campaign. This program aims to reduce accidents involving bikers and pedestrians and educate people on the dangers of not following traffic laws.

Sloan lauded the success of the program last year. He said with the number of deaths as high as it is just over halfway through the year, the department needs to increase efforts again.

“Pedestrian and bicycle safety is more important than ever before,” said Danny Pleasant, director of Charlotte DOT. “The bottom line is, everyone needs to be involved. Everyone needs to look out for one another.”

And with the rapid growth of the city as well as efforts to give uptown a more pedestrian feel, law enforcement says this program is paramount.

“I think we’ve got an influx of more and more people coming in (to Charlotte). We’re trying to keep up,” Sloan said. “It’s hard. The department is short-handed right now, but we’re working on it.”

As for the street where the young girl was killed last night, Sloan said other pedestrians have been struck on West Boulevard in the past few years.

“That’s an area that we’re probably going to be targeting with this campaign,” he said. “To try to make the pedestrians aware that they can’t cross there.”

Charlotte is above the state average in distracted driving and speeding accidents, and these are also occurring more often than in previous years.

“I’ve not seen it this bad,” Sloan said. “This is about the worst I’ve seen it in 18 years.”

Rachel Stone: (704) 358-5334, @RStone1317

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