Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB)

Downloadable Version
PDF [331 KB]

May 2009
FHWA-SA-09-009




Purpose

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were a total of 14,340 pedestrian fatalities and 193,000 pedestrian injuries resulting from pedestrian vehicle crashes nationwide during the 2004-2006 period. Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB) can enhance safety by reducing crashes between vehicles and pedestrians at unsignalized intersections and mid-block pedestrian crossings by increasing driver awareness of potential pedestrian conflicts.

Alternative Names

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Rapid-Flash System, Stutter Flash or LED Beacons.

This summary is one in a series describing Innovative Intersection Safety Treatments. The summaries identify new technologies and techniques to improve intersection safety developed since NCHRP Report 500, Volumes 5 and 12, were published in 2003 and 2004, respectively. These treatments show promise for improving safety but comprehensive effectiveness evaluations are not yet available.

Operation

  • RRFBs are user-actuated amber LEDs that supplement warning signs at unsignalized intersections or mid-block crosswalks. They can be activated by pedestrians manually by a push button or passively by a pedestrian detection system.
  • RRFBs use an irregular flash pattern that is similar to emergency flashers on police vehicles.
  • RRFBs may be installed on either two-lane or multi-lane roadways.

Potential Benefits

  • RRFBs are a lower cost alternative to traffic signals and hybrid signals that are shown to increase driver yielding behavior at crosswalks significantly when supplementing standard pedestrian crossing warning signs and markings.
  • An official FHWA-sponsored experimental implementation and evaluation conducted in St. Petersburg, Florida found that RRFBs at pedestrian crosswalks are dramatically more effective at increasing driver yielding rates to pedestrians than traditional overhead beacons.
  • The novelty and unique nature of the stutter flash may elicit a greater response from drivers than traditional methods.
  • The addition of RRFB may also increase the safety effectiveness of other treatments, such as the use of advance yield markings with YIELD (or STOP) HERE FOR PEDESTRIANS signs. These signs and markings are used to reduce the incidence of multiple-threat crashes at crosswalks on multi-lane roads (i.e., crashes where a vehicle in one lane stops to allow a pedestrian to cross the street while a vehicle in an adjacent lane, traveling in the same direction, strikes the pedestrian), but alone they only have a small effect on overall driver yielding rates.
Figure 1: Activated, solar-powered RRFB on a center island at an unsignalized intersection – beacons flash using an irregular flash pattern that is similar to emergency flashers on police vehicles.
Figure 2. Activated, solar-powered, roadside RRFB at a mid-block crosswalk.
Figure 3. Combined roadside and median-mounted system of solar powered RRFBs.

Agency Experience

"An Analysis of the Effects of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians Using Multilane Crosswalks," along with "The Use of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians at Crosswalks," presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in 2008, summarized the results of two studies on the effects of RRFBs when used to supplement standard pedestrian crossing warning signs at crosswalks.1

The former found that going from a no-beacon arrangement to a two-beacon system, mounted on the supplementary warning sign on the right side of the crossing, increased yielding from 18 percent to 81 percent. There was a further increase in yielding behavior, with a four-beacon system (with two beacons on both the right and left side of the crossing) to 88 percent. "An Analysis of the Effects of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians Using Multilane Crosswalks" also evaluated the sites over a 1-year period, and found that there was little to no decrease in yielding behavior over time.

Implementation Considerations

  • Including RRFBs on the roadside increases driver yielding behavior significantly. Including RRFBs on a center island or median as well can further increase driver yielding behavior, although with a lower marginal benefit than roadside beacons.
  • RRFBs can use manual push-buttons or automated passive (e.g., video or infrared) pedestrian detection, and should be unlit when not activated.
  • RRFBs typically receive power by standalone solar panel units, but may also be wired to a traditional power source.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Specifications

  • The MUTCD gave interim approval to RRFBs for optional use in limited circumstances in July 2008. The interim approval allows for usage as a warning beacon to supplement standard pedestrian crossing warning signs and markings at either a pedestrian or school crossing; where the crosswalk approach is not controlled by a yield sign, stop sign, or traffic-control signal; or at a crosswalk at a roundabout.
  • The MUTCD interim approval memo also contains other provisions for the implementation of the device and should be reviewed (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia11/fhwamemo.htm).

Costs

  • Cost is approximately $10,000 to $15,000 for purchase and installation of two units (one on either side of a street). This includes solar panels for powering the units, pad lighting, indication units (for both sides of street) with RRFBs in the back and front of each unit, signage on both approaches, all posts, and either passive infrared detection or push buttons with audio instructions.
  • Costs would be proportionately higher for additional units placed on a median island, etc.

Learn More

Michael Frederick, St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager 727.893.7843 michael.frederick@stpete.org

Ed Rice, Intersection Safety Team Leader FHWA Office of Safety 202.366.9064 ed.rice@dot.gov

See Also:

http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia11/stpetersburgrpt/intro.htm

http://www.stpete.org/pdf/ite_paper_07.pdf




1The two known studies of stutter flash were both conducted in Florida–one in Miami Beach and one in St. Petersburg. They are:

Sherbutt, J., R. Van Houten, and S. Turner. "An Analysis of the Effects of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians Using Multilane Crosswalks." Presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 2008.

Van Houten, R., R. Ellis, and E. Marmolejo. "The Use of Stutter Flash LED Beacons to Increase Yielding to Pedestrians at Crosswalks." Presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 2008.

FHWA logo     FHWA Office of Safety logo: Safe roads for a safer future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives.

Return to top

Program Contact

Jeffrey Shaw

708-283-3524

What’s New

New Signalized Intersections: An Informational Guide

South Carolina Case Study: Systematic Intersection Improvements

Roundabout Outreach and Education Toolbox

Stop-Controlled Intersection Safety: Through Route Activated Warning Systems

Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Second Edition (NCHRP Report 672)

Roundabouts Peer-to-Peer Assistance

How to drive a roundabout (WSDOT)

Modern Roundabouts: A Safer Choice

Highlights

FHWA's Intersection Resources Library CD-ROM

Roundabouts Technical Summary

Mini-Roundabouts Technical Summary

Access Management in the Vicinity of Intersections Technical Summary

Intersection Safety Case Studies

Intersection Safety Technologies

Presentation: Intersection Safety

Example Intersection Safety Implementation Plan

Intersection Safety Implementation Plan Workshop

Example Data Analysis Package and Straw Man Outline