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'Heads Up Cornelius' campaign aimed at getting people to pay attention at crosswalks

Officials are hoping these signs will get people who are looking down at their phones to look up before crossing the street.

CORNELIUS, N.C. — The Town of Cornelius is hoping to make walking, biking and driving throughout town safer with a new campaign, called Heads Up Cornelius, targeting crosswalks with the most foot and vehicle traffic.

People walking around the town can spot signs on the ground in front of crosswalks that read: Heads up. Officials are hoping these will get people who are looking down at their phones to look up before crossing the street. 

“Pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks are not obstacles. Motorists should not see them as challenges," MaeLynn Joyner, communications manager for the town said.

According to the Cornelius Parks and Recreation Director Troy Fitzsimmons, so far, the stencils can be seen at 15 crosswalks throughout the town that were determined to be the most at risk.

According to data from WalkBIKENC, each year, between 150 and 165 pedestrians and 16 and 20 bicyclists are killed in collisions with motor vehicles on North Carolina roads. 

Nationwide, annual pedestrian deaths increased by 46% from 2010 to 2019. In the past 11 years in Cornelius, there have been 93 car accidents involving a person or bicyclist. But the responsibility needs to be shared.

“In 85% of pedestrian collisions the vehicle was found at fault and in 51% of cyclist collisions the vehicle was found at fault,” Joyner said. “But it’s not just the driver's fault all of the time. There’s also this need for people to be aware of their surroundings.”

The town is focusing on education, encouraging drivers to remember the law and yield for pedestrians. 

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Officials said locally, in the Lake Norman region, they've witnessed this issue first hand. 

"There have been recent fatal collisions involving motorists in our neighboring Town, Davidson, and far too many close calls here in Cornelius," town officials told WCNC's Charlotte Chloe Leshner. "Last year, we sadly had a pedestrian struck and killed along I-77 near exit 28." 

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Cornelius said they have a zero-tolerance policy for careless and reckless driving, walking and cycling.

“We might not be looking around us or we might not hear a car coming. It’s important to have something there where your eye level already is that reminds you, hey you’re about to enter a danger zone," Joyner said.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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