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Pedestrian Crossing Signs: An Essential Part of Public Safety

Authorities have long held differing opinions about the effectiveness of pedestrian crossing signs.  While most concur that such signage is essential for helping to ensure public safety, others point to studies that dispute the validity of this claim.  This leaves open the following questions: (1) “should pedestrian crossing signs be used?” and (2) “how can they be used most effectively?”


This topic has been the subject of intense research in recent years.  As a result, experts have reached a general consensus that pedestrian crossing signs are essential to safeguarding persons crossing the street.  However, they should be used as part of a larger strategy and not as a stand-alone approach.  With that in mind, the following general guidelines should help officials looking to create new crosswalks and/or reduce accident rates at existing locations.


The First Step: Pavement Markings

Pavement markings are an essential element of crosswalk safety.  By themselves they are rarely sufficient; however, combining them with other methods can substantially increase safety.


The Second Step: Pedestrian Crossing Signs

Pedestrian crossing signs serve an important supplementary role in advising motorists that they are approaching a crosswalk.  Sign usage will become ever more critical in coming years due to both the rising trend toward non-vehicular transport as well as the older age of the general populace; older drivers require additional cues to become aware of crosswalks and other important landmarks, and older pedestrians are at higher risk for being injured.  In many cases, traditional signs should ultimately be replaced by notices with higher visibility, such as signs that flash or that are suspended above the road surface.


The Third Step: Physical Changes to the Road Surface

In some locations, local circumstances will require physical changes to the area surrounding the crosswalk to ensure safety.  Possible measures include the following:

·         Speed bumps.

·         Refuge islands.

·         Raised crosswalks.

·         Roadway narrowing.



Like all matters pertaining to public welfare, crosswalk safety can be complex and, at times, controversial.  By building a well-informed foundation based on appropriate markings, pedestrian crossing signs, and other measures, however, accidents and injuries can be reduced.