Drivers Run Sloat Ped Beacon: Bad Design, Inept Driving, or Teething Period?

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A new button-activated pedestrian beacon was installed on Sloat Boulevard and Forest View Drive this week as a part of a package of safety improvements, along with three bulb-outs and a more visible crosswalk. It’s the spot where 17-year-old Hanren Chang was killed on her birthday in March by a drunk driver as she was crossing the street.

As KRON 4′s Stanley Roberts showed in his latest “People Behaving Badly” segment, drivers haven’t yet caught on to how they should behave when the new signal turns red. Roberts notes that stopping at a red light should be natural, and that these drivers’ failure to comply has led him to “a reasonable conclusion that the state of California is giving away driver’s licenses.” Caltrans has also placed a digital sign warning approaching drivers, “Ped Beacon Ahead.”

Or we might just be witnessing an adjustment period. The signal phasing is somewhat unique around here — this particular type of signal, called a “High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) beacon system,” is the second one to be installed in California, the first being in Sacramento. The light remains off until a pedestrian pushes a button to activate the beacon, at which point the signal flashes yellow, turns to solid yellow, then a solid red while the new pedestrian countdown signal is on. Traffic engineers say it can often take weeks for users to adjust to street changes. According to an eight-month study conducted by the City of Tucson, the HAWK signals increased driver compliance at marked crosswalks from 30 percent to 93 percent.

A lively debate on the issue is already underway in the comments section of today’s headlines. Do drivers just need some time to get it, is this a failed pedestrian safety device, or is it a sign of the ineptitude of modern drivers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.