States STEP Up to Enhance Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian fatalities have surged 35 percent since 2008, while all other traffic deaths have decreased 6 percent.
“This is why it’s more important than ever for transportation professionals to design roads and bridges for all people, not just those who drive,” said Wayne Emington, safety and operations engineer in the Federal Highway Administration Maine Division.

The Every Day Counts round five (EDC-5) initiative on safe transportation for every pedestrian (STEP) focuses on this national safety problem by promoting cost-effective countermeasures. “We like to call them our ‘Spectacular Seven,” said Becky Crowe, FHWA transportation specialist and STEP team co-leader. “Countermeasures in the toolbox include rectangular rapid flashing beacons and crosswalk visibility enhancements that have proven safety benefits to reduce pedestrian crashes at urban and rural crossing locations.”
The STEP team helps agencies create pedestrian safety action plans and deploy countermeasures. “We’re available to conduct training, workshops, and road safety audits,” said Crowe. “We are organizing peer exchanges and scan tours so States can learn from each other and actually see how these countermeasures work.”

Fifty-two State Transportation Innovation Councils plan to achieve the demonstration, assessment, or institutionalized stages of STEP countermeasure deployment in EDC-5.

Photo of woman on crosswalk with visibility enhancements.Crosswalk visibility enhancements such as high-visibility markings and in-street signs improve pedestrian safety.
Virginia Takes Action
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) developed a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan to address a 19 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities since 2012. “VDOT is taking action by applying training, FHWA guidance, and data analysis to select locations for pedestrian safety improvements,” said Mark Cole, VDOT assistant State traffic engineer. To develop the plan, VDOT used systemic and crash-based analysis to identify priority corridors and sites for installing pedestrian safety countermeasures. The plan includes an inventory of pedestrian countermeasures and their potential crash reduction benefits. “Many of our countermeasures are lower cost, higher benefit treatments,” said Cole. After creating the plan, VDOT issued a call for projects that met the objectives of the safety analysis and advanced implementation of STEP countermeasures. VDOT scheduled 25 projects totaling more than $8 million to deploy pedestrian safety improvements in 2019.

Heads Up in Maine
Maine’s 5-year pedestrian fatality average was 10.4 a year in 2014. After annual pedestrian fatalities jumped to 19, 17, and 21 in the next 3 years, the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) launched the Heads Up campaign to raise awareness of pedestrian safety and reduce crashes. As part of Heads Up, MaineDOT partnered with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine to conduct pedestrian safety forums, focusing on 21 communities that represent 29 percent of Maine’s population but 65 percent of pedestrian crashes. The forums reviewed pedestrian safety issues and crash statistics and enabled participants to discuss problem areas in their communities. One goal of the forums and subsequent road safety audits was to identify potential pedestrian safety projects. In 2019, MaineDOT allocated $250,000 in Highway Safety Improvement Program funds for pedestrian safety and another $150,000 for crosswalk projects.

Spectacular Seven
The Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian initiative features seven proven countermeasures for crossing locations.

Rectangular rapid flashing beacons use an irregular flash pattern at midblock or uncontrolled crossing locations to increase driver yielding behavior, reducing pedestrian crashes up to 47 percent.

Leading pedestrian intervals at signalized intersections allow pedestrians to walk before vehicles get a green signal to turn, increasing visibility, reducing conflicts, and lowering pedestrian crashes up to 59 percent.

Crosswalk visibility enhancements, such as lighting and enhanced signage and markings, help drivers detect pedestrians and reduce pedestrian crashes 23 to 48 percent.

Raised crosswalks can serve as a traffic calming measure, reduce vehicle speeds, and cut pedestrian crashes up to 45 percent.

Pedestrian crossing, or refuge, islands provide a safer place for pedestrians to stop at a road’s midpoint before crossing the remaining distance, which can decrease pedestrian crashes up to 32 percent.

Pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs), an intermediate option between a flashing beacon and a full pedestrian signal, provide stop control for higher speed, multilane roadways with high vehicular volumes. PHBs can reduce pedestrian crashes up to 55 percent.

Road diets can reduce vehicle speeds and the number of lanes pedestrians cross, as well as create space to add facilities such as pedestrian crossing islands. Road diets can cut total crashes 19 to 47 percent.


Watch a webinar on STEP countermeasures and how agencies are incorporating them into safety plans.

Read the “Guide for Improving Pedestrian Safety at Uncontrolled Crossing Locations” for best practices on countermeasure selection.

Contact Becky Crowe of the FHWA Office of Safety or Peter Eun of the FHWA Resource Center for information and technical assistance.