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Pedestrian Safety - Report to Congress

August 2008

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4. Recommendations for Law Enforcement and Education

Law Enforcement

Traffic enforcement using traditional patrolling activities poses significant difficulties for police, who in most cases must pursue a vehicle, stop it, and issue a citation to the driver violating a motor vehicle law. In addition to exacerbating traffic congestion, this can endanger motorists, pedestrians, and police officers themselves. Advanced technologies that provide automated enforcement are one way to deter violations and improve public safety without increasing congestion.

There are several advanced automated enforcement technologies that are or will be available to assist police with law enforcement activities and that may improve pedestrian safety. These include automated red light enforcement, particularly at intersections with significant pedestrian activity; automated speed enforcement, particularly on approaches to mid-block pedestrian crosswalks traversing higher speed urban and suburban arterials; and automated crosswalk enforcement, particularly at crosswalks with considerable violations.

Automated Enforcement

Automated red light enforcement is currently deployed at a variety of locations and is authorized by law in about half of the States. This technology utilizes static cameras placed at various points at an intersection to identify vehicles that fail to stop at red signals. The technology uses cameras triggered by sensors that detect vehicles entering the intersection above a preset minimum speed and at a specified time after the signal has turned red. In addition to vehicle identification, the systems record the date, time of day, time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, and vehicle speed. Tickets typically are sent by mail to owners of violating vehicles based on this photographic evidence.

Automated speed enforcement is used in approximately 20 communities in the United States. These systems use radar detectors at given multiple static or portable locations to identify vehicles that are exceeding an established threshold speed. Once a vehicle is detected above the threshold, a camera takes a frontal and possibly rear photograph of the vehicle, capturing the license plate and copying the recorded speed and time on the photo. The picture is then matched with the vehicle owner through motor vehicle registration files, and a specified fine is mailed to the owner.

Automated red light enforcement may be appropriate to consider at intersections with significant pedestrian activity or pedestrian crashes, and automated speed enforcement may be appropriate to consider in advance of mid-block crosswalks on multilane arterials with significant pedestrian activity or pedestrian crashes. In the case of both technologies, however, studies should be undertaken to determine safety benefits to pedestrians of these automated enforcement technologies.

Automated crosswalk enforcement is designed to detect, record, and issue citations for motorists who violate pedestrian rights in crosswalks. However, this technology is still in the concept validation phase and requires paper analysis and feasibility studies from a technical standpoint to validate the technical practicability of photographs that can encompass both pedestrians in crosswalks and a motorist violating the crosswalk. If it can be determined to be workable on paper, limited prototypes may be developed to demonstrate the concept and determine the technology's impact on reducing pedestrian-motorist conflicts.

Institutional issues that are limiting wider deployment of automated enforcement technologies need to be identified and addressed in a way that allows the safety effectiveness of the technology to be retained while still making it possible for the vast majority of the public to support automated enforcement. Institutional issues that have arisen to date in localities considering deployment of automated enforcement technologies include privacy issues, due process concerns, perceived fairness, legality, and ample advanced warning. There have also been assertions that the technologies are being used in some locations as a means for localities to issue fines and increase revenue rather than to improve safety.

Guidance needs to be available that provides information to public officials on means to effectively address these issues while building public support for the technology. It is also necessary to differentiate between those public bodies which have existing legal authority to apply the technology and those that require additional legislative authority. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has developed implementation guidance for both red light and automated speed enforcement systems.

In addition, a National Cooperative Highway Research Program project entitled "Automated Enforcement for Speeding and Red Light Running" (NCHRP 03-93) will commence in 2008. This project will document existing laws and ordinances, identify ongoing automated enforcement activities in the United States, document best practices among State and local jurisdictions, research the effectiveness of automated enforcement, conduct surveys of public opinion, and examine public information, education, and legislative approaches. A final report documenting the research conducted and providing a set of stand-alone guidelines is expected to be published in 2009.


Positive Feedback for Pedestrians

The purpose of educating pedestrians about the technologies they can interact with or that activate in response to their commands is not just to instruct them on how to use the technology, but also to influence their behaviors in ways that can improve their safety.

One way to do this is by providing pedestrians with positive feedback. When a pedestrian actively pushes a call button, positive feedback could be as simple as an indicator light activating to show the pedestrian that his call has been registered and the pedestrian cycle activated. More detailed positive feedback could be provided in the form of pedestrian countdown signals that indicate how long the pedestrian has to traverse the crossing before the pedestrian cycle ends.

By providing timely feedback, pedestrians are informed that wait times are tolerable, perhaps making them less likely to avoid the wait by crossing against the signal and potentially improving their safety.

Public Outreach at the Point of Readiness

When advanced technologies have matured enough to be widely deployed, localities should undertake education campaigns to introduce the new systems to the public, explaining what they are, how they work, how the public should react to them, and what the safety benefit of the technology is expected to be. This outreach is ideally performed in conjunction with other pedestrian education and enforcement efforts.

Some suggested methods of outreach and education about pedestrian safety that have been successful in various States and localities include:

Educating Law Enforcement

Outreach and education for law enforcement agencies should also be provided as part of new technology implementation. In the case of automated enforcement technologies, these efforts should focus on how to use the technologies properly and within the framework of established State or local laws.

However, law enforcement officers should be aware of crosswalk areas where new technology is in use and how that technology works so officers can recognize when crosswalk violations occur. For example, if an officer is aware that a pedestrian scramble system is in use and that right turns are prohibited during the pedestrian phase, an illegal right turning vehicle may be more easily identified and cited.

Law enforcement agencies should also be informed of the advantages of the new technology in helping them to identify traffic violators. For example, if a vehicle comes through an advanced mid-block crossing without yielding to the pedestrian, the presence of additional lighting can be used to support the citation and the education of the motorist on the importance of yielding to pedestrians.

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