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Saving Pedestrian Lives in Crosswalks

Updated on June 19, 2013

Have you ever come close to being hit by a car at a crosswalk?

We had two pedestrians killed on our street last year. Both individuals were directly in the crosswalk at impact. Both individuals were wearing bright clothing on sunny days, not dark clothing on a gray dusk that you would anticipate when hearing of such horror.

The Problem

There is an uphill knoll approaching the crosswalk, which limits driver visibility. Additionally, there are three intersecting streets and a New England style church on one side of the road with the parking lot on the other side of the road. There is high pedestrian traffic and too many directions that vehicles are entering the intersection for one to feel safe using the crosswalk. The town has grown quite a bit since the church was built 120 years ago.

At the intersection, in front of the church, most drivers have stimulus overload as they avoid other automobiles and barely have time to glance at the multitude of traffic signs already in place. The problem is driver’s bandwidth and how to briefly get a driver’s attention without creating an additional hazard. Repainting the crosswalk or throwing up another regular street sign was not going to solve the problem as there is little time for a driver to read and mentally digest the information that already is posted near the intersection.

The Solution

The solution was a unique pedestrian sign that catches a driver’s attention prior to cresting the knoll. This unique sign was a blinking pedestrian sign that is solar powered. Why solar powered? The cost of adding a new sign along a street includes the power line cost of running electricity to the site. The electrical installation cost was projected to be three times (3X) the capital cost of acquiring a standard lit sign.

Additional Value

As I approach the intersection, the yellow LED lit sign reminds me not only of the dangerous intersection ahead, but also reminds me to be on the lookout for individuals crossing the street throughout our town. The yellow side-lit sign is a reminder that our city cares about its residence, its citizens. Also, I have walked the crosswalk and definitely felt safer doing so knowing the yellow LED’s were blinking 100 feet down the road. While standing at the intersection, I observed cars starting to slow down 100 feet early down the hill, unlike before as they picked up speed to gain momentum as they approached the small hill.

Informal Study

Our town decided to install three (3) additional yellow LED pedestrian signs at (3) additional locations in our town. Out of curiosity, since the town was spending my tax dollars, I decided to perform an informal study. Prior to the installation, I stood at an intersection where one of the new gadgets was about the installed and noted that only one in eight drivers (12%) stopped to allow me to cross the intersection. NH has a pedestrian right-of-way law and, in rural NH, most folks are respectful to those walking through town. For those who stopped, they started to decelerate their speed only 30 feet before the intersection prior to the installation of the new LED lit pedestrian sign. Many drivers who did stop hit their brakes too late and stopped midway in the pedestrian crossing, in effect, blocking it and requiring me to walk around the front of the their car outside of the crosswalk.

After the installation of a yellow LED pedestrian sign, the results were amazingly different. One in three drivers (33%) stopped to allow me to cross. More interesting was that, for those who stopped, they started reducing their speed over 60 feet prior to the intersection with not one car stopping dead center of the cross walk. The results were a 3-fold increase in drivers stopping for pedestrians and a 2-fold increase in distance for the drivers taking action to stop. Impressive results! More important, no one has been killed at the intersection the past 6 months.


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