In June, a driver struck and killed a 55-year old woman riding her bicycle in Mount Prospect. Police revealed that the woman who was driving the car was the person who caused the collision. But they also claim that the bicyclist contributed to the crash as well. Shortly after the accident, concerns raised about the safety of crosswalk beacons that the bicyclist used to cross. This new crosswalk has caused people to question the safety benefits of crosswalk beacons.
In order to make a busy crosswalk safer for pedestrians, the city of Mount Prospect installed a crosswalk beacon. Just months after the installation, a driver struck and killed a bicycler in Mount Prospect on this crosswalk. Irregardless, these beacons continue to pop up more and more all across Illinois. Crossing beacons are installed on traffic signal poles with regulatory warning signs to try to alert the driver of a crosswalk when the driver approaches the crosswalk. This allows drivers to know that pedestrians might be present so that drivers can slow down and stop for pedestrians to cross. To activate the beacon, the pedestrian presses a button and drivers are alerted that a pedestrian will cross.
Benefits of a Crosswalk Beacon
On paper, beacons seem to benefit pedestrians who are attempting to cross a crosswalk. A study revealed that, at crossings with no beacons, drivers yielded to only 18% of pedestrians, but when beacons were present, drivers yielded over 80% of the time. Additionally, these beacons
- increase driver compliance with the law and drivers stop completely at these crosswalks,
- cause drivers to become aware of pedestrians, and
- increase the flow of traffic since drivers do not have to stop if no pedestrians are present.
New Charges Against the Driver
Initially, the driver in the accident was charged with failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The driver allegedly drove without corrective lenses and that the driver allegedly improperly passed a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk. The police have also indicated that a state traffic law says a pedestrian should not enter the roadway when another vehicle is dangerously close. The victim’s wife responded to this allegation calling the police’s words slanderous, irresponsible, and insulting. Her family states that the bicycler activated the warning signals, waited for vehicles to stop before crossing on the crosswalk, but then was struck as she got to the middle.
Is There Another Safer Option Besides Crosswalk Beacons?
Another option exists for those who question the effectiveness of crosswalk beacons: another type of crosswalk signal. Commonly known as a pedestrian hybrid beacon, this beacon could fix some of the problems that regular traffic beacons have failed to reconcile. This device hangs over the road and is dark until a pedestrian activates the device by pressing a button. Once the pedestrian presses the button, the device emits a yellow warning light to alert drivers of the presence of a pedestrian. Then the beacon turns red, which would force drivers to stop. Therefore, the pedestrian can safely cross the road. A study conducted in Texas and Arizona found that 96% of drivers stopped with this type of cross walk signal.
What Drivers Must Do
Since a new traffic signal will require action in Mount Prospect and state legislature’s part, drivers must start making changes today. Drivers should pay attention to
- the traffic beacons that are currently in place, and
- always stop completely at them, even if no pedestrians appear to be present.
Especially since school has begun, drivers should be aware of little children that might be harder to see than an adult. Most importantly, drivers should always yield the right of way to pedestrians.
How to Avoid Bicycle Accidents as a Driver
- Recognize that bicyclists the right of way. Bicyclists have all the rights of drivers of cars and trucks,
- Pay close attention to the road and check for bicyclers before entering an intersection.
- Before backing out of your driveway, check for any young children riding their bikes by the end of your driveway,
- Give bicyclists enough room when you pass them.