Campaign gives a ‘Heads Up’ to distracted walking

 

DOVER — Across the country, students are returning to their college towns, populating communities that notice their arrival.

In Dover, law enforcement and its university partners are promoting their safety through a “Heads Up” campaign targeting the dangers of “distracted walking” due to electronic devices still powered on.

The campaign was developed to raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of distracted walking before it becomes an epidemic and more victims die, the Dover Police Department said.

“The goal of the campaign is to save lives through education,” Dover PD spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Situated in busy downtown Dover, Wesley College students regularly leave campus on foot as vehicles pass by all around them; unfortunately, two students were lost in vehicle pedestrian deaths in 2010 and 2014.

So it’s no wonder that Wesley will join Wilmington University and Delaware Technical Community College in distributing pedestrian safety material to incoming students via print, online, signage and social media avenues.

“Wesley College is proud to be a part of the downtown Dover community,” Wesley Dean of Students Wanda Anderson said in a news release announcing the “Heads Up” campaign earlier this week.

“Students presence extends beyond the buildings of our campus. It is not unusual to see students jogging, running or walking in the immediate vicinity of the campus wearing headphones and/or texting. We are a close-knit family, one death due to something that could have been prevented has a terrible emotional impact on the campus community.”

Wesley officials said they “did not hesitate to get on board” when the Dover PD Victim Services Coordinator Diane Glenn “reached out to us to join the fight to educate students and neighbors in Dover about this issue …”

According to Dover PD, Ms. Glenn was spurred to construct the “Heads Up” program after the death of a Wesley student last year that was due to distracted walking/running. At the time of the accident, police said, emergency responders were challenged to identify the victim and locate contact information.

Also taking part is Road ID, which provides discounted identification cards designed to assist emergency responders when tending to a victim of a pedestrian accident, from joggers, bikers and anyone else frequently crossing the roadways here.

Pictured is a Road ID card that students will receive as part of the “Heads Up” program. More information is available online at www.roadid.com. (Submitted photo/Dover PD)

Pictured is a Road ID card that students will receive as part of the “Heads Up” program. More information is available online at www.roadid.com. (Submitted photo/Dover PD)

“The goal of the awareness campaign is to target those most at risk,” Ms. Glenn said.

“Studies and research have shown that college and teenaged students are at most risk. Our collaborative partners, Delaware Tech, Wesley College and Wilmington University have been provided information and resources to help educate students on the dangers of distracted running/walking.

“It is our hope that each institutions will utilize their own web based, electronic and media resources to continue to spread the message and make student aware of the dangers.”

Most frequent issues

According to Dover PD the most frequent issues with pedestrians and vehicles include:

•Distractions, most of all due to cell phones

•Failure to use crosswalks/adhere to pedestrian signals

•Darting out in front of traffic due to impatience

Studies have show that teenagers are the most likely victims of pedestrian accidents, and Dover has a new influx of them as college classes near.

“Obviously we want every citizen to be safe when walking our roadways and avoid distractions, especially when crossing roadways,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“However, studies have shown that teens are most frequently involved in these types of incidents.

“But when an accident occurs, as we saw in May of this year, it affects so many people beyond the victim. Friends and family of the victim, fellow classmates, the driver involved, and more are all greatly affected by such tragedies and this can be avoided by simply putting the phone down for a matter of seconds.”

Delaware Technical Community College is backing the program designed to avoid future tragedies. The school isn’t dissuading its students to avoid the streets, but take advantage of them in a safe manner.

“The safety of our students and employees is our top priority at Delaware Tech so we join the Dover Police Department and our partner institutions to support the ‘Heads Up’ campaign,” DTCC President Dr. Mark T. Brainard said.

“We encourage walking and running as part of our wellness programs and we will also promote awareness and pedestrian safety on our campuses and in the community through this important effort.”

Dover PD will take a proactive approach to fostering pedestrian safety through contacting those on the streets and enforcing the laws on the books designed to protect them.

“We will be working with the various schools to spread the message on the dangers of distracted walking and will monitor areas known to have issues with pedestrians,” Cpl Hoffman said.

“Based on those observations we will begin enforcement of pedestrian laws in those areas as well.”

Describing the program as “proactive,” Wilmington University Department of Public Safety Mark Daniels gave the initiative a thumbs up in the quest to protect students and “enhance safety.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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