Technology helps make crosswalks safer, fairer

  • Sat May 12th, 2012 4:46pm
  • News

Rob Harrower of Everett writes: When crossing at some crosswalks with lights, can we get a 10 to 20 second head start for the pedestrian? This would provide a safer environment.

The pedestrian would not have to hurry so as not to alienate the driver, or worry about getting run over. The driver would not feel rushed to get through the light.

As a pedestrian, an error I’ve often seen in drivers is looking to their left to make sure they are clear of cars before turning right, but failing to look to the right for pedestrians.

My wife has had to knock car bumpers several times with her umbrella to make them aware. What does the law say in regard to a pedestrian waiting on a street corner to cross the road? Are drivers supposed to stop? Not stop?

I realize it can be extremely difficult to see a pedestrian on any given street corner, but was curious about what the law actually states.

The crosswalk across Mukilteo Boulevard between Forest Park and the north end of Federal Avenue, near the old fire station, is in a bad location.

There is a flashing yellow light that is always on, and hence easily ignorable. The visibility is horrible, people are going 30 to 35 mph and cannot react in time to see someone waiting to cross.

I’m hoping it can be controlled, so that for the majority of time it is off, and when a pedestrian activates the light a yellow light would come on for drivers followed by a red light.

Ryan Sass, engineer for the city of Everett, responds: A signal that gives a start for the pedestrian, often called a “leading pedestrian interval” or “advance walk,” does make people on foot more visible to drivers.

At intersections with many right turns or dual-right turns, an advance walk is used to increase safety. It’s not used at all locations because when the advance walk is active, it causes delays for other users. It can make an intersection more congested, so we don’t use it everywhere.

Legal crosswalks exist at every intersection, marked or unmarked, unless prohibited by a traffic control device. At the intersection of Mukilteo Boulevard and 42nd Street SE, a painted crosswalk and continuous flashing beacons overhead have been added to raise driver awareness of pedestrians. Trees and ground cover are routinely trimmed to keep sight lines as open as possible, and the intersection does meet guidelines for drivers to be able to recognize a pedestrian and stop.

Solutions such as flashing beacons and pedestrian-activated signals have shown potential for affecting driver behavior. Some of these solutions require a higher number of pedestrians to meet federal guidelines.

Per state law (RCW 46.61.235), at legal crossings where a pedestrian or bicycle is waiting to cross, drivers must stop if a pedestrian is within one lane of their half the roadway. Once a pedestrian is more than one lane beyond their half of the roadway, drivers may proceed.

By the same token, the same law also says pedestrians must not suddenly leave a curb or place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle which is so close it is impossible for the driver to stop. These two statements make it everyone’s responsibility to exercise awareness and caution when utilizing crosswalks.

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