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Pedestrian Safety Products: Visual and Physical Protection

Pedestrian safety products are designed to prevent accidents, promote the smooth flow of traffic, and improve the overall mass transit environment.  The means by which they accomplish these goals include conveying information, preventing illegal or reckless behavior, and, when necessary, creating a physical barrier to protect those on foot from errant or unsafe drivers.  This article will review examples of pedestrian safety products that accomplish one or more of these goals.  The intention is to give readers an appreciation for the effectiveness and versatility of these public guardians.

Informing the Public

Most drivers are responsible, law-abiding citizens who only wish to safely complete their journey.  Because of this, most pedestrian safety products are designed to simply inform drivers of changing or special conditions.  For example, a crosswalk sign creates no physical impediment to vehicles, nor does it seek to dissuade careless driving with threats of fines.  Its intention is simply to alert oncoming traffic to the high likelihood of pedestrians crossing the street at a certain location.

While simple notification is more than sufficient in most cases, changing social factors have made it necessary for sign designers to raise the profile of modern traffic markers.  One way to accomplish this purpose is by adding flashing electric beacons, retroreflective material, and other visibility enhancers.  The use of these methods will become more common in the years to come as the age of the average driver advances.  Getting older affects a motorist’s sense acuity, mental processing speed, and physical reaction times.  As a result, the standard safety products that are highly effective for young drivers require modification to better serve the public at large.

Sending a Warning

Unfortunately, there will always be a minority of motorists who are insufficiently concerned about the well-being of both pedestrians and fellow motorists.  While these people are few in number, the damage they can cause is disproportionally great.  This is why some pedestrian safety products include notices advising drivers of the presence of law enforcement agents, speed detection devices, and other law enforcement measures.  Sometimes traffic departments use signs that specify the fine the courts will impose for certain types of infractions.  These pedestrian safety products give added incentive to less-than-conscientious drivers to stay within the law.  However, because of their controversial and/or confrontational nature, officials should limit the use of these measures whenever possible.

Erecting a Wall

Sometimes, informing the public and issuing warnings are insufficient on their own to safeguard pedestrians.  This is especially likely when certain aggravating factors are present.  These may include:

  • Vehicles traveling at high speeds.  The faster a motorist is traveling, the less reaction time he or she will have to changing conditions.  This is why highway crews usually install large concrete barriers around construction zones.  The consequences of even a single vehicle straying from its path in such situations can be catastrophic.
  • Drivers who are impaired in any way.  Alcohol, illicit drugs, fatigue, and the presence of distractions can all contribute to the need for pedestrian safety products.  Distracted driving has especially become a problem in recent years, due to the ever-increasing popularity of mobile devices like tablets and cell phones.  Texting, surfing the Internet, and/or carrying on conversations can greatly impede a driver’s alertness to road conditions.
  • Heightened possibility of criminal attacks in an area.  These hazards present the greatest possible threat to life and property, since the perpetrators are deliberately committing illegal or harmful acts.  In such cases, the only way to safeguard the public is by using barriers or other access entitlements.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenge of safeguarding the public.  Deciding what type of solution to employ in a given situation comes down to having the right information and exercising sound judgment.  So long as officials are informed and alert, they can make effective decisions about how to use all types of pedestrian safety products.