Have you ever had a “close call” in a pedestrian crosswalk

pedestrian crosswalkCredit: The Tire Zoo, CC by 2.0, FlickrSanta Rosa, CA, paid $335,000 for a crosswalk death when a college student was struck and killed in the crossing.  Why was the city sued?   The city of Santa Rosa had decided to cut cost through a streetlight reduction program and failed to do enough to protect their pedestrians according the suit.  The city decided to settle the case to avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle. More and more towns are taking a second look at how to better protect their citizens.

Each spring many towns repaint their crosswalks, but paint on pavement alone does not make a driver alert at a busy intersection.  Better intersection design and pedestrian education are also needed.  Cell phone usage while driving has also become a huge distraction and has increased the hazards of street crossing.

The Danger

Pedestrian AccidentCredit: dbking, CC by 2.0, FlickrIn 2012, there were 857 pedestrians killed or injured in Minnesota.  Over 35 percent of the accidents were attributed to the driver failing to yield to the pedestrians while in a crosswalk.  Many were young children.

In 2008, USA Today reported that a pedestrian is killed every 110 minutes in the United States.  Additionally they reported that a pedestrian is injured every 9 minutes.  The elderly are especially vulnerable at crosswalks.  Of those individuals 70 years or older, 36% of pedestrian deaths for this age group occur at intersections or crosswalks. 

In 2006, there were 4,784 U.S. pedestrian deaths according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).   471 of those deaths were in crosswalks and over 20% occurred while a pedestrian stood on a street corner.

In 2004, there were 550 pedestrians injured in Oregon.  45 of them were killed.  Over 45% of those killed were in crosswalks.

New Technology

Many municipalities have installed new technology in an attempt to reduce pedestrian fatalities.  One promising solution is LED lit pedestrian signs.  The old-style yellow signs with black lettering are common, so common they have become blurred into the roadside landscape as drivers are on sensory overload while navigating down a city street.  The new LED side-lit signs are similar in design (and size) to the old-style signs, but have 5-8 yellow LED lights around their edge that catch your attention day or night.  What powers these lights?  To save on installation cost for an electrical line, many municipalities are using solar powered chargers.  LED lights require very little voltage and draw only a trickle of juice from a battery.  Additionally, LED lighting does not require bulb replacement and can be seen several hundred feet away. These signs can be installed in 2 hours by replacing an existing sign and attaching them to an existing pole mount. 

The Summary

When installing a new sign, a municipality will balance the safety gain against several cost factors including original purchase price, installation cost, and annual maintenance cost.  The installation cost can exceed the original purchase price by 3-fold, which is why a solar powered solution is a significant cost savings.  Additionally, the lack of long-term maintenance cost by using LED lighting reduces labor cost and lost usage. Another group that is purchasing and installing these devices is condo associations that have private roads and cul-de-sac style developments that are looking to improve owner safety for their children playing in the common driveways.  Many individuals entering a cul-de-sac, who are not residents, are woefully ignorant to the hazards of children that assume their road is their private playground.  These LED lit signs help to increase driver awareness.