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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-043
Date: September 2010

Effects of Yellow Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons on Yielding at Multilane Uncontrolled Crosswalks


Drivers often fail to yield to pedestrians who have the right-of-way in marked crosswalks at uncontrolled locations. From the beginning of 2004 to the end of 2006, there were a total of 14,351 pedestrian fatalities and 212,786 pedestrian injuries resulting from pedestrian-automobile collisions nationwide.(1) Decreasing the occurrence of these crashes would increase the safety and overall walking experience for pedestrians. Anything less than a traffic signal has historically failed to produce over 70 percent yielding at crosswalks on multilane roads.

Several techniques and technologies have been used to increase driver yielding to pedestrians at marked crosswalks. One older technology included the use of flashing overhead standard yellow beacons.(2) More recent approaches include the use of in-street signs labeled "YIELD TO PEDESTRIAN" and in-roadway lights.(2) Ellis et al. experimented with in-street signs placed vertically in center lanes.(3) The signs were placed at the crossing, 20 ft in advance of the crosswalk, and 40 ft in advance of the crosswalk. The installation of these signs produced an increase of two to three times the yielding percentage over the baseline, with maximum yielding of about 61 percent. However, a study by Turner et al. shows that in-street signs do not work well on multilane roads.(4) Several studies have shown only modest increases in yielding with in-pavement lighting.(4,5)

An inexpensive and effective alternative solution is the pedestrian crossing device that employs yellow LED RRFBs that are similar in operation to emergency flashers on police vehicles. Van Houten et al. reported the results of a preliminary evaluation of this device at two multilane sites in Miami-Dade County, FL.(6) They found that the RRFB produced a large increase in driver yielding to staged pedestrian crossings (crossings made by research assistants who crossed in a consistent manner) and that the data obtained with staged crossings accurately reflected the data obtained with nonstaged crossings at these sites. The purpose of this study was to identify variables related to the efficacy of the RRFB, determine the long-term effectiveness of the RRFB, compare the RRFB to standard incandescent yellow flashing beacons, and determine if similar results can be obtained in different regions of the United States. The first experiment compared the effects of installing RRFBs on pedestrian signs on both sides of the crosswalk (two sets of beacons) to installing them on both sides of the crosswalk plus on the median island (four sets of beacons). The second experiment compared RRFBs with a traditional overhead flashing beacon and traditional beacons mounted beside the pedestrian signs. The third experiment examined the long-term effects of RRFBs at 18 sites in St. Petersburg, FL, and the short-term effects of RRFBs at three sites in two other parts of the country. The fourth experiment examined the efficacy of direct-aim technology that allowed RRFBs to have maximum brightness at a particular point in the roadway. Finally, the fifth experiment examined the effect of placing additional RRFBs on the crosswalk advance warning signs.

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