Delaware officials use zombies to raise safety awareness

A unique public safety campaign in Delaware is using zombies to warn people of pedestrian safety and it’s getting mixed reactions. The Delaware Department of Highway Safety has created the “Don’t Join the Walking Dead” program in an effort to make sure residents cross the streets safely due to an increase in pedestrian deaths.

On Thursday, patrol officers along with a zombie character set up shop to raise awareness at Rodney Square in Wilmington. According to the Office of Highway Safety which teamed up with the Delaware Department of Transportation and Delaware State Police for the program, 30 pedestrians were killed in 2012, and 13 so far this year.

“We needed to try a different approach, an educational approach to get out there and actually talk to people and give them reflective items. We’re seeing a lot of these fatalities happening at night, and they’re not carrying a flashlight or wearing any thing reflective,” said Alison Kirk of the Delaware Department of Highway Safety.

Delaware law states that pedestrians do have the right away when they’re in the crosswalk, but officials say it’s a tricky law that’s often misunderstood.

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“Pedestrians cannot step out into traffic if it’s going to cause hazard. What that means is a pedestrian can go into a crosswalk if there’s a clearance, and if cars are slowing down for them, but they can’t step out in front of a car and assume that car is going to stop for them, that’s creating a hazard,” said Kirk.

Basically, pedestrians do have the right away only when they’re in the crosswalk, but not if they’re just standing near one waiting to cross the street. Most of the pedestrian accidents and crashes have occurred in New Castle County on Kirkwood Highway, and Routes 2, 4, 30 and 14, or on the major high speed corridors. In Sussex County, officials have seen pedestrian related accidents as well, but mostly near the beach in the area of Routes 1 and 54.

Meanwhile, the Office of Highway Safety is providing overtime patrols for local agencies to educate people and enforce the law when they come across violators who aren’t using crosswalks or signaled intersections.

In Wilmington, several people crowded around the zombie character to take pictures and just to see what the costume was all about. However, not everyone has welcomed the idea of zombies raising awareness about pedestrian safety.

“Some people are into the zombie craze, and they get it and they like it and some people aren’t into the zombie craze and they don’t like it. So you get a lot of different feedback,” said Kirk.

Bottom line, officials say the campaign is drawing a lot of attention and doing exactly what safety officials wanted it to do because people are stopping to talk when the zombies are out.

The “Don’t Join the Walking Dead” program which kicked off in Dewey last month will run through October.


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