WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Blue lights and sirens are the sight and sound we all try to avoid on the road.

Corporal James Mitchell has been with the City of Winston-Salem's Traffic Enforcement Unit for six years and has had his fair share of run-ins with people getting hit and killed by vehicles, both as an officer and as someone who grew up in the area.

Winston-Salem police officers went undercover to act as pedestrians and catch drivers who violate the law at crosswalks.

What You Need To Know

  • Members of the Winston-Salem Police Department went undercover as pedestrians to catch those in violation of the law

  • About 160 pedestrians are killed each year in North Carolina, according to Watch For Me NC

  • Corporal James Mitchel believes the main reason behind these pedestrian crashes is people not paying attention

“The vehicle failed to yield to that pedestrian to allow him across, so it’s a clearly marked crosswalk and this vehicle is required to slow to allow him to cross,” said Mitchell

“The pedestrian actually did the right thing and recognized that a vehicle was approaching and [was] not going to stop. Had a crash occurred based on what we had there because a pedestrian proceeded into a crosswalk, the driver of the vehicle would have been at fault,” said Mitchell.

North Carolina is the 13th most dangerous state for pedestrians and the proof is in the numbers, both locally and statewide. According to Watch For Me NC, an average of 160 pedestrians are killed each year.

As of mid-December, the City of Winston-Salem has had a total of 75 pedestrian accidents, and nine of those were fatal. Before 2018, pedestrian related crashes in the city averaged between 50 and 60, but now that average is around 100.

“If you look at those stats it does stand a reason, I mean seven out of nine the pedestrian could have done something different, then that kind of tells you something needs to be done as far as getting pedestrians to understand the need for safety and how to follow what the laws are in place,” said Mitchell.

According to Smart Growth America, as a state, the number of pedestrian deaths has increased more than 50% over the past decade. Most of those crashes happened during daylight hours.

Mitchell believes that these numbers can be tied to one thing: people not paying attention.

“I think a lot of it comes down to distraction,” said Mitchell.