Systemic application of cost-effective countermeasures with known safety benefits can help reduce pedestrian fatalities at both uncontrolled and signalized crossing locations.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2016 witnessed the most pedestrian fatalities since 1990. Pedestrians accounted for approximately 16 percent of all roadway fatalities (5,987), and the vast majority of these occurred while crossing the roadway at both midblock and intersection crossing locations (72 percent occurred away from intersections and 18 percent at intersections). There are cost-effective countermeasures that can be systematically used to reduce crashes and bring measured safety benefits at uncontrolled and signalized pedestrian crossing locations.
Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures
Uncontrolled crossing locations may have inadequate pedestrian crossing facilities, creating barriers to safe, convenient, and complete pedestrian networks. At signalized intersections equipped with pedestrian signals, conflicts with turning vehicles may occur when pedestrians see a walk signal and vehicles see a left turn signal. By focusing on all pedestrian crossing locations, urban and rural, agencies can comprehensively address a significant national safety problem and improve quality of life for pedestrians of all ages and abilities. The following countermeasures promoted by STEP 2.0 can improve pedestrian safety when used in the appropriate roadway context.
Leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at signalized intersections allow pedestrians to walk, usually 3 to 4 seconds, before vehicles get a green signal to turn left or right. The LPI increases visibility, reduces conflicts, and improves yielding.
Road Diets can reduce vehicle speeds and the number of lanes pedestrians cross, and they can create space to add new pedestrian facilities such as pedestrian crossing/refuge islands.
Rectangular rapid flash beacons (RRFBs) are active (user-actuated) or passive (automated detection) amber LEDs that use an irregular flash pattern at mid-block or uncontrolled crossing locations. They significantly increase driver yielding behavior.
Pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) provide positive stop control in areas with high pedestrian traffic volumes. The PHB is an intermediate option between a flashing beacon and a full pedestrian signal.
Pedestrian crossing/refuge islands allow pedestrians a safer place to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for older pedestrians or other pedestrians with limited mobility. The refuge island (Danish offset design) combats pedestrian distraction as it guides them to view oncoming traffic before they cross.
Raised crosswalks can serve as a traffic calming measure and reduce vehicle speeds.
Crosswalk visibility enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting and enhanced signage and markings, help drivers detect pedestrians–particularly at night.
- Improved Safety. Countermeasures are available that offer proven solutions for reducing pedestrian fatalities at uncontrolled and signalized crossing locations.
- Targeted Investment. By focusing on pedestrians crossing locations, agencies can address a significant national pedestrian safety problem.
- Enhanced Quality of Life. Improving crossing opportunities boosts quality of life for pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
Building on the 4 ‘E’ approach (engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency medical services) within each State, communities can deploy proven, cost-effective countermeasures to improve pedestrian safety.
State of the Practice
Communities across the Nation are benefitting by using LPI. In New York City, the effects of this treatment were dramatic. Where LPIs were installed, the overall number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed or severely injured dropped 37 percent. LPI use in Florida also yielded positive results, including reducing the percentage of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts between 25 and 100 percent at different intersections. The RRFB has greatly increased driver yielding rates in several communities, and a recent study demonstrated that it can reduce pedestrian crashes. RRFBs can be extremely effective at trail crossings or near schools.