Changes in O&M "Best Practice" for Crossing at Traffic Signals
by Dona Sauerburger, COMS
Spring 2007 Newsletter, AER Orientation and Mobility Division
Strategies that blind people traditionally use to cross at signalized intersections are no longer effective and reliable, because of drastic changes that have been made in signalized intersections during the last 30 years.
For example, research at actuated intersections showed that blind pedestrians using traditional strategies may begin crossing when turning traffic has the right-of-way across their crosswalk, and if they have not pushed the pedestrian button they may not have adequate time to complete their crossing before the signal changes (Barlow, Bentzen, & Bond 2005).
Some of the features of modern traffic signals that are now different are:
In July, 2006, in view of the need to adapt or revise our street-crossing strategies because of these new features, our AER O&M Division approved a position paper which states among other things that O&M specialists will provide consumers with information about how actuated signals function and techniques for dealing with them, including strategies to find and use pedestrian buttons and cross.
- Complex traffic patterns (protected left and split phases, lead pedestrian intervals, exclusive pedestrian phases)
Effect: Traditional strategy to "cross with parallel traffic surge" is no longer reliably appropriate or safe.
- Right-turn-on-red laws
Effect: Initial surge of parallel traffic is no longer sufficient cue to recognize the onset of the pedestrian walk signal.
- It is no longer possible to predict timing / traffic pattern, no matter how long it is observed;
- Pedestrians may have to push a button to ensure enough time to cross, in which case the crossing must start in the appropriate phase of cycle immediately following the push of the button, and therefore:
- there is limited time to prepare for the crossing;
- alignment must be done with limited or no parallel traffic sounds;
- The status of the pedestrian signal must be determined.
This means that O&M specialists consider that "best practice"for teaching consumers to cross streets with traffic signals means teaching strategies that are effective for crossing modern signalized intersections, rather than the traditional strategies.
O&M specialists who don't follow best practice and don't teach effective, new strategies will have difficulty defending themselves in case of a lawsuit, and will have to show why they chose not to teach strategies that are considered best practice.
So, what strategies are considered effective for crossing modern signalized intersections?
I have recorded strategies on my website at www.sauerburger.org/dona/signals.htm
I encourage you to browse and read the information and strategies, and share your ideas and concerns.
Hopefully we can develop consensus and a body of knowledge for dealing with these issues, so we can teach our consumers safe, effective techniques and provide them with the up-to-date, accurate information they need in order to know how to cross.
Barlow, J.M., Bentzen, B.L. and Bond, T. (2005) Blind pedestrians and the changing technology and geometry of signalized intersections: Safety, orientation and independence. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Vol 99, (10),587-598.
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