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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-043    Date:  June 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-043
Date: June 2015


Investigating Improvements to Pedestrian Crossings With An Emphasis on The Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon

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The overall goal of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program is to improve safety and mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to share roadways, through the development of safer crosswalks, sidewalks, and pedestrian technologies, and the expansion of educational and safety programs.

This report documents an FHWA project that investigated how characteristics of rapid-flashing beacons (e.g., shape, size, and brightness) affect the ability of drivers to detect people or objects along the roadway and the likelihood of drivers yielding to a pedestrian. This report should be of interest to engineers, planners, and other community authorities who share an interest in safeguarding the lives of roadway users, especially pedestrians.

Monique R. Evans
Director, Office of Safety
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.


Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Investigating Improvements to Pedestrian Crossings With an Emphasis on the Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon

5. Report Date

June 2015

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Kay Fitzpatrick, Raul Avelar, Ingrid Potts, Marcus Brewer, James Robertson, Chris Fees, Jessica Hutton, Lindsay Lucas, and Karin Bauer

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

University of Maryland-College Park
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
1173 Glenn L. Martin Hall
College Park, MD 20742

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.

Task Order #4

12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Safety Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Technical Report:
September 2010–March 2015

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) was Ann Do, HRDS-30.

16. Abstract

Several methods have been used to emphasize the presence of a pedestrian crossing, including supplementing signing with beacons or embedded light-emitting diodes. A device that has received national attention is the rectangular rapid-flashing beacon, but practitioners have asked whether the shape of the beacon plays a role in the effectiveness of this device. In the first phase of this project, researchers reviewed recent literature and pedestrian crash data to identify trends in pedestrian safety and in the effectiveness of crossing treatments. Researchers also conducted limited field observations at 10 crosswalks in 5 States, as a source of ideas for evaluating crossings in the second phase of the project.


In phase II of the project, the research included a closed-course study and an open-road study to determine what characteristics of rapid-flashing beacons affected drivers’ ability to detect people or objects, as well as drivers’ likelihood of yielding to a pedestrian. The closed-course study included 71 participants who drove the course and viewed 8 beacon study assemblies, 9 distractor signs, and up to 11 roadside objects. The open-road study involved both rectangular beacons and circular beacons that were installed at 12 sites located in 4 cities from 3 States; both staged and nonstaged pedestrian crossings were documented. Although a slight difference was found between the average percent yielding to circular versus rectangular beacons (daytime: 67 to 59 percent; nighttime: 69 to 72 percent), the statistical evaluation determined that the shape of the beacon did not have a significant effect on drivers’ responses. However, a driver is more than three times as likely to yield when a beacon has been activated as when it has not been activated. Other variables that had an impact on driver yielding included beacon intensity (for nighttime) and city (yielding was higher in Flagstaff, AZ, compared with the other cities included in study), but not average daily traffic.

17. Key Words

Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon, Circular Rapid-Flashing Beacon, RRFB, CRFB, Pedestrian Crossing, Driver Yielding to Pedestrians

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service Springfield, VA  22161.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price
Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized

SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors

table of contents














ADTAverage Daily Traffic (vehicles/day) 
AICAkaike’s Information Criterion 
ANOVAAnalysis of Variance 
ASCIIAmerican Standard Code for Information Interchange 
C-A12For the closed-course study, two circular 12-inch beacons located above the sign 
C-B12For the closed-course study, two circular 12-inch beacons located below the sign 
C-B8For the closed-course study, two circular 8-inch beacons located below the sign 
CDTCalculated Daily Traffic (vehicles per day) (determined using 1-hour count and national hourly traffic distribution data for non-freeway roads with no, low, and moderate congestion) 
CMFCrash Modification Factor 
CRFBCircular Rapid-Flashing Beacon 
C-V12For the closed-course study, one circular 12-inch beacon located above the sign and one circular 12-inch beacon located below the sign 
DFDegrees of Freedom 
FARSFatality Analysis Reporting System 
FHWAFederal Highway Administration 
GESGeneral Estimates System 
GLMMGeneralized Linear Mixed Effects Model 
GPSGlobal Positioning System 
HSISHighway Safety Information System 
IQRInterquartile Range 
IRWLIn-Road Warning Light 
ITSIntelligent Transportation System 
LEDLight-Emitting Diode (also used to indicate the sign used in the closed-course study where the LEDs were embedded into the border) 
LMMLinear Mixed Effects Model 
MCOPMarketing, Communication, and Outreach Plan 
MOEMeasure of Effectiveness 
MUTCDManual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 
NCHRPNational Cooperative Highway Research Program 
NCUTCDNational Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 
NHTSANational Highway Transportation Safety Administration 
NMVCSSNational Motor Vehicle Crash Sampling Survey 
Ped X-ingPedestrian Crossing (sign) 
PHBPedestrian Hybrid Beacon 
PuffinPedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent (crossing) 
R-AFor the closed-course study, two rectangular beacons located above the sign 
R-BFor the closed-course study, two rectangular beacons located below the sign (format currently being used for the RRFB device) 
REMLRestricted Maximum Likelihood. 
RRFBRectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon 
SAESociety of Automotive Engineers 
Std. errorStandard Error of Value 
TAPTechnical Advisory Panel 
TCRPTransit Cooperative Research Program 
TFHRCTurner-Fairbank Highway Research Center 
TTITexas A&M Transportation Institute 
TWLTLTwo-Way Left-Turn Lane 
TxDOTTexas Department of Transportation 
UMKCUniversity of Missouri—Kansas City 
WO-BFor the closed-course study, diamond-shaped sign with no beacons or LEDs 
YTPCDYield-to-Pedestrian Channelizing Device 


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