Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time For Crosswalks To Go High-Tech?

Over at GreaterGreaterWashington.org, they track crashes between cars, bikes & pedestrians on a weekly basis. It's a stark reminder that while shootings & stabbings lead the 5pm news, as a society we've quietly decided that cars smooshing a certain amount of cyclists & walkers are the cost of getting those drivers to work on time.

If pedestrians are lucky, their interests will be taken into consideration when deciding whether to put a traffic signal at an intersection. If they don't have a signal, what safety do we offer pedestrians? Crosswalks, which are about as effective protection as crossing lion territory wielding a paper towel tube.

What percent of drivers actually stop when you're waiting in the crosswalk? Maybe 10%? I get that up to maybe 30% by taking a step into the crosswalk & looking like I might do the Matrix stomp on their hood. I don't think that's the best option though for, say, my mom.

But the "solution" of crosswalks fails to protect pedestrians a vast majority of the time - or even lulls them into a false sense of security - and we've just sorta shrugged & moved on. And drivers know we don't care about enforcement & act accordingly.

What if we attacked crosswalk enforcement with the same zeal for safety (and revenue) that lawmakers have with traffic red light cameras? What if there was a button you could push that signaled drivers to stop AND activated a small video camera that recorded what happened next, with steep tickets given out to drivers who didn't stop if they safely could have?

Given such a system might be relatively pricey to install, you could do it at just a few particularly busy intersections. The benefit could be widespread if it changed the wiring in drivers' brains by sending a clear signal with enforcement & penalties that we actually cared about getting them to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Bad idea? Good idea? Already being tried somewhere? Let me know & I may use your comments in a follow-up post.
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