Crossing the road doesn’t have to be deadly. But in 2018, it was for 6,283 pedestrians. That’s one death every 84 minutes.
What can be done?
The FHWA Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) program promotes strategies and countermeasures proven to reduce severe pedestrian crashes. The countermeasures protect pedestrians when and where they are most vulnerable while crossing the street. The program focuses on key safety issues where pedestrians are more at risk for being killed in a crash: nighttime, between intersections, older pedestrians, higher speeds, and multi-lane crossings. Most pedestrian fatalities occur in these conditions.
Statistics show these vulnerabilities and provide focus areas where the countermeasures will help solve the biggest problems. For instance, in 2018, 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide occurred between intersections and 76 percent of U.S. pedestrian fatalities occurred in dark conditions. Vehicle speed is a deciding factor in most pedestrian fatalities. If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph, there is an estimated 10-percent chance of serious or fatal injury. When hit at 40 mph, there is a 75 percent chance of serious or fatal pedestrian injury.
“The data is clear,” said Becky Crowe, FHWA STEP program co-lead. “We want to help agencies focus on the most dangerous situations for people walking, and our STEP countermeasures offer solutions for these high-risk areas.”
The seven countermeasures promoted by STEP are proven to improve safety under these high-risk conditions. Often, these countermeasures can be used in combination to reduce multiple risks at pedestrian crossings. Rectangular rapid-flashing beacons are often paired with pedestrian refuge islands, and leading pedestrian intervals work well with crosswalk visibility markings such as curb extensions to enhance visibility of the pedestrian in the crosswalk. STEP has produced tech sheets for each of the Spectacular Seven countermeasures and has documented their success in over 30 case studies.
Crosswalk visibility enhancements are a group of countermeasures including improved lighting, advance or in-street warning signs, high-visibility pavement markings, and geometric design elements that work together to make pedestrians more visible in crosswalks. These cross-cutting measures address most of the STEP focus areas.
Leading pedestrian intervals are adjustments to signal timing to increase pedestrian safety at signalized intersections. This is especially helpful for older pedestrians, who may need more time to cross.
Pedestrian hybrid beacon (PHB) heads consist of two red lenses above a single yellow lens. Unlike a traffic signal, the PHB rests in dark until a pedestrian activates it. When activated, PHBs stop all lanes of traffic. They are especially helpful at midblock and multi-lane crossings.
Pedestrian refuge islands are medians with a “refuge” area in the middle to help protect pedestrians crossing single- or multi-lane roads. They can be used at midblock or intersections and let pedestrians focus on crossing one direction of traffic at a time. This is helpful for all pedestrians, but older ones in particular.
Raised crosswalks are ramped speed tables spanning the entire width of the roadway, often at midblock. They are flush with the height of the sidewalk, which slows vehicles and makes it easier for pedestrians to cross, including the elderly.
Road diets typically convert an existing four-lane, undivided roadway to two through lanes and a center, two-way left turn lane. They reduce crossing distance and exposure for pedestrians, as well as vehicle speed.
Rectangular rapid-flashing beacons are pedestrian-actuated, attention-getting LED beacons that alert drivers to pedestrians who want to cross. They are used in combination with advance warning signs to improve safety at uncontrolled, marked crosswalks.
The Spectacular Seven countermeasures increase driver yielding at crosswalks, slow vehicle speeds, control traffic and reduce conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians, and improve visibility where people are likely to cross the road. These safety outcomes are in line with the Safe System Approach—a holistic view of roadway safety that promotes, among other strategies, the role of infrastructure in eliminating traffic fatalities. The approach assumes humans make mistakes, but that infrastructure can anticipate those mistakes and ensure they are not fatal. When these countermeasures are used in tandem, across the system, and in combination with other strategies, risk of pedestrian fatalities can be reduced.
“STEP and the Safe System Approach are a natural fit,” said Peter Eun, FHWA STEP program co-lead. “More and more, people want multiple mobility options. That means broadening our view of how everyone interacts with their infrastructure so they can travel safely, no matter the mode.”
More than ever, crossing the road doesn’t have to be deadly.
View STEP videos and a storyboard that explain the benefits of the Spectacular Seven countermeasures.
Visit the STEP webpage for resources, webinars, and videos to aid STEP deployment.
Check out the EDC-5 Final Report to see progress made by States in implementing STEP.