HOLLY SPRINGS — Mayor Dick Sears cannot end a Town Council meeting without talking about crosswalk safety.
He asks motorists to “yield to pedestrians” so much that it could be his next campaign slogan.
State law requires vehicles to yield to pedestrians who want to cross. But as Holly Springs has grown, town officials say they’ve heard more and more stories from residents who say they were nearly hit by a car while trying to cross the street.
Now that school is out and the weather is nice, town officials worry the risk of crosswalk accidents is even higher. So Holly Springs police recently set up a new email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – for people to report traffic violations.
Police hope to use the information to better crack down on areas where drivers habitually speed, disobey stop signs and ignore crosswalks.
“This time of year, when it’s hot and people are outside more, those calls (complaints from pedestrians) are greater,” Police Chief John Herring said.
Holly Springs isn’t the only town where residents have complained about drivers ignoring crosswalks.
Last year, parents urged the town of Cary and the school district to install new safeguards in front of Cary High School after three teenagers were hit and injured by cars while crossing Walnut Street.
Apex decided to hire a crossing guard for Olive Chapel Elementary School amid safety complaints about traffic and crosswalks.
Herring said he can’t recall any reports of a vehicle hitting a pedestrian in a Holly Springs crosswalk in the eight years he’s been police chief. But anecdotes from residents indicate the potential for an accident is high.
Sears began his push to improve safety at crosswalks last fall after he saw a woman with two young children try to cross Main Street in front of Town Hall.
She stood there for several minutes, he said, but the cars kept zooming by.
“No one stopped – not until a police officer finally had to come park and stop traffic so she could cross,” Sears said. “That one incident was enough to convince me something bad is going to happen if we don’t do something.”
In October, the town posted a plea to residents on its website.
“Please watch for pedestrians at crosswalks. Remember that they have the right-of-way in crosswalks at or near an intersection wherever there are no traffic lights,” it said.
Complaints emerged again in January when several mothers appeared at a council meeting and asked town leaders to improve the safety at the intersection of Cass Holt Road and Avent Ferry Road.
Many parents and children cross those roads to get to Holly Grove elementary and middle schools, which are nearby.
Brooke Grant told the council a vehicle once came within inches of hitting her 3-year-old son as they crossed Avent Ferry.
“I’ve had to stop in the middle of the road because motorists are continuously taking that right turn,” she said.
The town worked with the state Department of Transportation, which maintains the road, to install extra warning signs and a crosswalk signal at the intersection.
Sears said he’s heard fewer complaints from folks who live in that area.
Meanwhile, in April, Fire Chief LeRoy Smith reported the same problem on the other side of town near Holly Ridge elementary and middle schools.
“This morning on my way to work I witnessed 18 vehicles pass the crosswalk at Middlecrest and Holly Springs Road while children were waiting to cross for school,” Smith wrote in an email to Sears. “None of the vehicles even slowed down.
“This issue has been bad but over the past few weeks it has gotten worse.”
The town created a short video about crosswalk safety and started a more targeted approach to stopping motorists who ignore pedestrians at crosswalks.
Sears said he thinks the problem has gotten a little better. But he’s not about to stop talking about it.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht