Eyes on the Street: There Are Literally Giant Eyeballs on the Street
Eight people wearing gigantic eyeball masks high-fived pedestrians and danced at the corner of Speer Boulevard and Larimer Streets near the Auraria campus this morning. The event, organized by the Colorado Department of Transportation, intends to cut pedestrian fatalities in the state by urging people to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street, according to Sam Cole, the agency’s traffic safety manager.
“This is to remind pedestrians to make eye contact before stepping into the road,” he said. “To make sure they’re seen.”
The total number of Colorado pedestrian fatalities has reached 38 so far this year, a 28 percent decrease from this time last year when 53 deaths had occurred, according to CDOT.
Cole credits the decreasing fatalities to lower speed limits, better crosswalks and improved street design. But few of the state’s roads have been upgraded to include new safety elements, which is why he says people on foot should continue to use caution.
“Street design is important, but until we have perfect roads and perfect drivers, we as pedestrians need to be alert and use caution,” he said.
Some street safety advocates are likely to criticize CDOT for the campaign, arguing that streets should be engineered to slow traffic and make drivers more alert around intersections. Molly McKinley is such an advocate, who said that less than a day after returning to Denver she had a close call with a driver in a tweet she sent this morning.
“@MayorHancock what are you doing to create a culture of safety through your #visionzero commitment? Right now the culture feels a lot like “be super vigilant when walking/biking/scooting/wheeling so you don’t get killed by someone driving 🤷♀️” and that shouldn’t be acceptable,” she tweeted.
CDOT budgets $3 million to $4 million for road safety awareness campaigns like this, according to Cole. He says nearly all of the agency’s campaigns are aimed at drivers. The campaigns urge people behind the wheel to stop driving while impaired on alcohol or other drugs. Others discourage mobile phones use and other forms of distracted driving. But even with these efforts, he says pedestrians have a role in their own safety.
“It would be irresponsible if we left pedestrians out of our safety efforts,” said Cole. “We’re trying to share some tips and tricks for staying safe because in the end, pedestrians are always on the losing end of crashes.”
In Denver, 17 pedestrians have died so far this year compared to 11 at this point last year, according to the Denver Police Department. The overall number of Denver traffic fatalities stands at 55 so far this year, which is up significantly from the 40 at this point last year.
On February 17, 2016, Mayor Hancock committed to Vision Zero with a pledge to end all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.