Watch for Me NC program launched in Beaufort County

Published 11:59 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Encouraging bicycle safety, and those surrounding cyclists, is as important now as ever before. With more people at home, finding ways to be active has led to an increased interest in jogging and biking. Because of this, the state-run safety program, Watch for Me NC, has grown and will likely continue to grow for the foreseeable future, including in Washington.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration introduced the Watch for Me NC program in 2012 in a few select spots; since, it has grown to a statewide program.

“It began in the Triangle area, mainly as a pedestrian campaign in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. We saw great results working with our law enforcement officers, not only educating law enforcement, but the bicyclist, pedestrian and motoring public,” said Ed Johnson, manager of the Watch for Me NC program. “From then, it really started to take off, then we introduced it statewide. Every year, it has continued to grow, and we’ve gotten some really good results from that.”

More than 2,900 pedestrians and 950 bicyclist were hit by vehicles in North Carolina alone in 2016. Johnson explained that it is going to take a collaborative effort between cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicle operators.

“It’s going to take them all working collaboratively for safe, multimodal transportation,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing a lot of increase in activity with COVID-19 and people being at home, that people are doing a lot more exercising like biking and walking, we’re just encouraging folks to be aware of their surroundings, and be a little more patience with each other.”

Washington’s City Manager, Johnathan Russell, said the City of Washington jumped on the opportunity to join the Watch For Me NC program to bring awareness to residents and the motoring public.

“We welcomed the Watch For Me NC program because we need to increase awareness and safety for pedestrians and bikers alike,” Russell said.

The City of Washington has experienced some bicycle/pedestrian-motor vehicle incidents in the past, and Russell’s hope is that Watch For Me NC will be a great educational tool to help fix that problem.

“The Watch For Me NC program will play as an educational piece to help motorists be aware of what’s out there; being more cognizant of sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists alike,” Russell said. “The Watch For Me program helps to provide resources that can be utilized by law enforcement to help increase the educational focus. We feel that better serves the community to educate the public, in order to correct the problem. “

Since 2018, the Watch For Me NC program grew from four pilot coalitions, to now, 50 participating coalitions. Nine of the top-10 pedestrian crash counties, and all top-10 bicycle-crash counties are participating in the program.

The informational material is put on transit buses, airports and local transit agencies throughout the state. Watch for Me NC has distributed 630,000 bumper stickers, 550 banners, 70,000 safety posters, 25,000 bike light sets and 30,000 reflective bracelets to local residents, community centers and businesses.