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Guidelines to Use Flashing Pedestrian Crosswalk Signs

Flashing pedestrian crosswalk signs enhance public safety when used correctly, but these products are not a cure-all for trouble. Some of the rules that govern their use include the following:

·      Flashing pedestrian crosswalk signs are most effective when drawing attention to unusual conditions. For example, some rural areas have crosswalks for clinics, churches, commercial establishments, and other facilities along high-speed, lightly used roads. In such cases, a flashing sign is more likely to command a driver's attention.

·      Sign flashers are less effective in urban environments. This is especially true when flashing signs are clustered together. Motorist simply become used to the lights and ignore them.

·      If existing signage provides adequate control, then there is rarely a need to install more.

What the MUTCD Has To Say

The MUTCD authorizes sign flashers for four distinct purposes:

1.     To control traffic at an intersection where two or more directions of travel are in play. Flashing pedestrian crosswalk signs are especially helpful in areas where traffic density does not warrant installing a conventional traffic signal.

2.     To supplement existing signage. For example, a flashing sign is often used to alert drivers to any obstructions in the road ahead.

3.     To advise drivers of recently implemented changes to the local speed limit. This can occur during periods of road construction or when safety studies indicate a need for reduced speed in an area.

4.     To draw motorists' attention to an upcoming stop sign. Some signs are difficult to see ahead of time because of a curve or hill blocking a driver's view.


Flashing pedestrian crosswalk signs are not a panacea for traffic safety problems. When overused, they can actually have the opposite effect of what is intended. In areas where their presence is justified, however, they are effective tools for safeguarding the public.