There are many tools available to improve crosswalk safety. Not only do government and transportation departments need to educate drivers and pedestrians to be cautious, and to avoid being distracted when approaching or using a crosswalk, but they also need to implement measures to enhance the visibility of both the crosswalk and the pedestrian. Following are a number of tools that should be considered, recognizing:
1) not every measure is appropriate for every environment, and
2) costs needs to be considered before assessing the viability of a particular tool.
Here are a number of ideas / suggestions for improving crosswalk safety:
1) In-Pavement LED Lights
In-road lights alert motorists to crosswalks and pedestrians crossing or preparing to cross the street. Amber lights can be embedded in the pavement on both sides of the crosswalk, oriented to face oncoming traffic. The technology provides for a bright, daytime-visible light focused directly in the driver’s line of sight. When the pedestrian activates the system, either by using a push-button or through detection from an automated device, the lights begin to flash, alerting the motorist that a pedestrian is in the vicinity of the crosswalk ahead. The flashing LEDs shut off after a set period of time.
An example of In-Pavement LED Markers can be found in this Article. This video shows the improved visibility provided by such lighting:
2) Reflective Tape on Crosswalk Poles
Many have suggested an inexpensive, but effective way to increase the visibility of crosswalks is to add reflective tape to the crosswalk pole, either from top to bottom on each side or wrapped around the pole such as in this example (although I would have used considerably more on the pole on the far right).
It certainly would seem this would be an easy to implement and inexpensive way of improving the visibility of the crosswalk pole and in doing so the crosswalk.
3) Crosswalk Safety Day
In 2004 a resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas organized a Crosswalk Safety Day.
The awareness event has grown to the point that last year the Governor of Arkansas proclaimed a Crosswalk Safety Awareness Day across the entire state:
“…urging my fellow citizens in schools, homes, and offices to discuss crosswalk safety because increasing awareness for safety is positive prevention”
Governor Mike Beebe, Arkansas
Find out more about Fayetteville’s Crosswalk Safety Day:
For the State of Arkansas Executive Proclamation:
Or better yet, organize a Crosswalk Safety Day in your community!
4) Crosswalk Flags
“…several cities use fluorescent orange flags … carried by crossing pedestrians…anecdotal information indicated these crossing flags are effective in improving driver yielding behavior”
“Field studies … found pedestrian crossing flags in Salt Lake City and Kirkland to be moderately effective. The study sites with crossing flags had motorist yielding rates that ranged from 46 to 79 percent, with an average of 65 percent compliance”
It is noteworthy this study concluded pedestrian crossing flags had considerably greater impact on motorist yielding rates (range of 46% to 79% with an average of 65%) than did overhead flashing amber beacons (29% to 73% with an average of 47%) and high-visibility fluorescent yellow-green signs/markings
A very successful program (based on resident feedback – 92% noticed the flags of which 96% thought the program should be expanded) was tested at 13 marked crosswalks in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The average effectiveness of the flags was 8.2 (out of 10). Subsequently the Village of Port Williams, Nova Scotia implemented a crosswalk flag program that also has been well received and continues to be in place. To learn more about this topic, please review: http://waverleyroadcrosswalkflags.synthasite.com/
5) Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committees
In early 2013 the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) approved a Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee (CSAC) with a mandate to:
“…serve as a forum to develop and present input and advice with respect to crosswalks with the objective of improving the safety of pedestrians using crosswalks in HRM. Issues to be addressed in the report include, but are not limited to education, enforcement, traffic control measures, standards and consistency.”
The Committee includes representatives from Council, the Transportation Standing Committee, the community (residents), the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, the School Board, post-secondary education, the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the police community.
A dedicated committee such as this, focusing solely on crosswalk safety, is a positive initiative that should be considered by other municipalities.
6) Advance Caution Signs
The more visible the crosswalk and the pedestrian the greater the likelihood the driver will see the pedestrian and yield. There are a number of means of increasing the visibility of crosswalks, one being the use of advance caution signage, as demonstrated here, alerting the motorist to an upcoming crosswalk.
7) Pedestrian Caution Signs
In the same manner that efforts should be made to increase the visibility of crosswalk and pedestrian to the driver the pedestrian needs to be cautious, to assure themselves the driver sees them (makes eye contact) and in fact will yield for them. Signage such as the following examples can be used to sensitize pedestrians to their need to be alert.
The last example, from Camden, Maine, in addition to the brick like crosswalk highlighted by wide white stripes advises the pedestrian to STOP, WAIT and WAVE.
8) Improved Lighting
SWARCO has developed an improved LED-based pedestrian crossing light that provides optimum light direction onto the crossing and lateral lighting.
With this lateral lighting a person stands out much better in the dark nighttime with approaching vehicles being able to spot pedestrians on the crosswalk or on the adjacent pavement areas from a greater distance. The white light of the LED allows for excellent colour reproduction, hence people are noticed faster and better. By using new technology and efficient high-quality LEDs, FUTURLUX CROSS-WALK increases visibility while reducing energy consumption. Accoridng to SWARCO a number municipalities have already ordered FUTURLUX CROSS-WALK streetlights.
© Copyright by SWARCO
9) Speed Humps
Another traffic calming option is to place speed humps at or near crosswalks. Speed humps are raised sections of pavement placed across the street causing motorists to reduce their speeds. A speed hump is similar to a speed bump but with a more gradual slope in order to reduce the jarring experience of a speed bump. The best speed hump designs employ a very gradual slope in order to reduct the jarring and potential vehicle damage.
Speed humps are an effective low cost tool to reduce traffic speeds.
10) Zebra and Ladder Crosswalk Markings
Many jurisdictions use ladder or zebra (the difference being whether both ends of the wider lines in the direction of the roadway are closed) crosswalks rather than the standard parallel lines. New York City measured the effectiveness of the ladder or zebra crosswalk at nine intersections in lower Manhattan. Each intersection qualified as a high crash location where the vehicle-pedestrian crash rate averaged 4.2 per year, yet none were marked with either ladder or zebra type crosswalks. Four of the intersections received ladder crosswalks, while five received zebra crosswalks with stop lines.
Vehicle-pedestrian crashes decreased for sites with ladder crosswalks from 16 to 8 and those that received zebra crosswalks from 20 to 13. Before the ladder crosswalks were added pedestrian incidents represented 11.6% of all crashes. This proportion decreased to 7.2%. At the zebra crosswalk locations pedestrian crashes made up 7.5% of all crashes before, but only 5.3% after the markings were added.
The value of both ladder and zebra markings in terms of absolute crash reduction was clear and positive; with the number of vehicle-pedestrian incidents at the nine test intersectins reducing from 36 to 21, a decrease of 42%.
11) Police Enforcement
Police forces have the responsibility to administer the laws of their jurisdictions. Many do so actively with others less so. Please see the Police section of the Shared Responsibility page to read and see examples of where police forces have taken a proactive roll in enforcing crosswalk laws and educating the public as to crosswalk safety.