RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - If you look down and see red, look up.
That's the message from University Police Services, which launched a new campaign Monday, March 2, 2020 in partnership with the Associated Students of the University of Nevada to improve pedestrian safety.
The new 'Red Zone' campaign aims to get students off their phones and more mindful of traffic as they cross the street.
Red zones will be painted at crosswalks on Virginia Street from Tenth to Fifteenth Streets to encourage students to "Be safe! Look up from your phone in this zone."
Why red? Organizers say it's to get people's attention.
"Getting students to look up from their phones while they're walking across campus is a real challenge," University Assistant Vice President and Chief of Police Todd Renwick said. "We needed something that's literally in their face calling attention to what we're trying to do. Our hope is that by seeing the sidewalk change color to red while they're looking down at their device, they are triggered to pay attention and look up from their phones."
Renwick added that many people tend to blame drivers in pedestrian/vehicle accidents but that pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility.
The first intersection to receive a Red Zone is Virginia Street and Artemesia Way. University Police Services and University students gathered there Monday and used bull horns to call out distracted pedestrians, encouraging them to look up, pay attention and cross the street safely. They also offered educational handouts and materials as part of the event.
These "call-out events" will continue weekly throughout the semester, changing locations and times to keep students aware and alert. Officers will be providing vehicle and pedestrian enforcement during these events as well.
According to Renwick, the University experienced three pedestrian/vehicle accidents in January 2020 alone.
"With the community's heightened awareness of pedestrian/vehicle accidents this year, it's time to do something a bit more drastic to call the community's attention to this ongoing problem," Renwick said.
University student and ASUN Director of Campus Wellness Claudia Feil agreed the statistics are alarming.
"Chief Renwick took a group of ASUN officers out to witness just how distracted students are when they're crossing the street," Feil said. "What we saw was really scary. People always think the driver is the one on the phone but it is literally everyone. Our goal is to get people to pay attention and to re-educate students on the basics of crossing the street. Perhaps by doing this, we'll save one or more lives."
Copyright KOLO-TV 2020