CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – 14-year-old Naren Pai often visits Ed Yerha Park in Cary. It’s only down the hill from his house, and he likes meeting friends there to play basketball. But he says there’s one road he doesn’t always feel safe crossing.

“It’s like a 90-degree turn that the people encounter right when they encounter the pedestrian crossing. As well as there’s a bunch of trees arching in the way. You can’t see the pedestrian signs, even if it’s lit up,” said Pai about the road that runs through the crosswalk.

This is why he created the “Pedestrian Protector” project, which aims to eliminate pedestrian traffic accidents. Pai uses a three-part system, so that both drivers and pedestrians are always aware of each other at crossings. There are two sensors, one for the car and one for the crosswalk, along with a crossing light signal similar to those already on the streets.

“Once the pedestrian walks in front of the device, they’ll block a sensor and dispenser is called an ultrasonic sensor and using like wireless signals, like echolocation, like a bat. It’ll detect if there’s a person in front of the car, in front of the device,” Naren explained.

The devices aim to be as user-friendly as possible. If neither driver nor pedestrians are in range of each other, both will see a green screen. If they are in range, there will be a red screen and a flashing light from a larger pedestrian sign.

The “Pedestrian Protector” has received national recognition. Pai designed the system as an entry for the Thomas Edison Pitch Contest, which awards young innovators working to change the world for the better. Pai’s design recently took home the contest’s top prize.

Pedestrian accidents are on the rise across the country. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, more the 7,500 pedestrians were killed in accidents in 2022, which is the highest it’s been in 40 years. In North Carolina, the Department of Transportation says that between 2015 and 2019, there were roughly 3,000 pedestrian traffic accidents.

Vision Zero is a national campaign aimed at eliminating all traffic deaths and severe injuries. North Carolina’s Vision Zero database offers further data on accident statistics.

Users can find more information pedestrian crashes under the person data tab on the website’s front page.