April 26, 2012
A new cross walk with multiple signal phases is now in operation in North Salt Lake.
The new crossing, a High intensity Activated crossWalk – called a HAWK – was designed in Tucson, Arizona appropriate for use at high volume or wide arterial streets with minor street intersections. HAWKs gives drivers “multiple cues to emphasize the potential presence of a pedestrian,” according to a Federal Highways Administration study that tested the effectiveness and safety of the HAWK. The study found that the yield rate is high due to those multiple visual cues.
The HAWK crossings include prominent pavement markings, signage and red and yellow lights on an over-the-roadway arm. When not is use, the lights are dark. Just like regular crosswalks, HAWKs are triggered when a pedestrian pushes a button. First, double yellow flashing lights, then solid yellow lights are activated to warn drivers to stop. The yellow phase is followed by two solid red lights to signal traffic to stop.
Pedestrians are then given the walk symbol followed by a countdown showing how many seconds remain in the walk phase. During the count-down, a flashing red light warns oncoming motorists to come to a full stop – motorists can proceed after a full stop if pedestrians are out of the crosswalk.
The FHWA study of the HAWK showed that “yielding percentages above 95 percent for the HAWK treatment, even on major streets with multiple lanes or higher speeds.”
Although the study also mentions that drivers are most likely to fail to yield during the flashing red phase. “Some drivers don’t seem to know what to do,” during the flashing red phase says Larry Montoya, a Traffic and Safety engineer at UDOT. Drivers encountering a flashing red signal on any roadway location should first come to a full stop, make sure the way is clear, and then proceed.
At a HAWK, drivers should come to a full stop and make sure pedestrians have cleared the crosswalk before continuing on. The flashing red phase is a way to balance the needs of pedestrians while limiting traffic delay.