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The Need for Increased Crosswalk Safety

Crosswalk safety has long been an area of concern for many cities and towns. Early methods for identifying pedestrian thoroughfares consisted merely of painted lines on the street that faded over time and were often difficult to see.  Legislation that required drivers to yield to pedestrians went largely unheeded when there were no physical elements such as signs to enforce the laws. 

An initiative to increase the conspicuity of pedestrian thoroughfares in an effort to improve pedestrian crosswalk safety has been in the works in many cities across the country.  In Ann Arbor, MI, for example, drivers are required to yield to persons crossing the street, walks are delineated by raised curbs in some areas, and bright yellow retroreflectorized signs have been erected next to crosswalks.  Centerline pedestrian signs informing motorists of local laws concerning yielding to or stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks have been shown to be very effective in increasing the conspicuity of an unsignalized intersection.  Increased awareness for drivers provide more effective crosswalk safety in these vulnerable areas.

Increasing signage and making crosswalks more visible is only the first step in the effort to make crosswalks safer for people.  Marketing strategies and communication with the public in the form of education is essential to making streets safer to walk.  Education initiatives in schools and public service radio and television announcements are very effective for spreading the word about intersection safety.  The trick is consistency in getting the message of crosswalk safety across, so that safety is always on a driver’s mind.   

Crosswalk safety is of heightened concern today because hundreds of deaths occur every year at crosswalks and almost all of them are preventable.  Research shows that most drivers miss pedestrians at crosswalks for easily-avoided reasons, such as inattentiveness or being in a hurry.  Clearer, more conspicuous signs can help drivers to see crosswalks more easily, and educational campaigns help drivers realize that moving too fast because they are late or using electronic devices while driving are simply not worth the consequences.

While crosswalk safety has evolved a lot over time, new initiatives constantly need to be researched and undertaken, especially as technology improves.