A creative way to bring safety awareness or an insult to victims and their families? That’s the question being posed about a new public safety campaign in Delaware that’s using zombies to warn residents of pedestrian dangers.
Last year, 30 pedestrians were killed in Delaware and 13 so far this year. Despite this, residents can still be seen crossing illegally on busy Delaware roads such as Route 13.
“We definitely need to do something a little bit more drastic and a little more attention-getting to hopefully prevent all these pedestrian crashes,” said Alison Kirk of the Delaware Department of Highway Safety.
That’s where the zombies come in. The Office of Highway Safety joined forces with DelDOT and Delaware State Police to create the “Don’t Join the Walking Dead” pedestrian campaign. Using actors dressed up as zombies, patrolling officers stop residents at recent accident locations to find pedestrians at risk of being involved in a crash. The “at risk” pedestrians include residents who aren’t crossing at marked crosswalks or signaled intersections and people who walk at dusk/night without a flashlight.
"We've seen a lot of 5Ks and zombie TV shows and everything zombie," Kirk said. "That's the new trend. So why not play off the new trend and hopefully get some buzz?"
Officials say the program provides education for residents about how to walk safely near traffic. The officers also provide pedestrians with an informational flyer and a reflective string backpack.
The program’s first pedestrian safety check took place back on July 26 at the Starboard in Dewey Beach. Another check took place Saturday on Second Street in Lewes.
Some critics say the zombie theme is insensitive to accident victims and their families.
"I think it's disrespectful to the people that have lost family members," said Johnny Jasinski of Smyrna, Delaware. "They need to go about it in a better way."
Highway Safety officials say it wasn't their intention to offend anyone. They do say however that it takes a bold move to get their message across. Dawn Sturgeon of Clayton, Delaware, agrees.
“I would hope it would grab the young kids and grab the people’s attention to pay more attention as they’re crossing,” she said.
More safety checks involving zombies will take place at Rodney Square in Wilmington on Thursday.