Will New Traffic Signals Prevent Pedestrian Accidents?

By Peter DePaolis

Personal Injury Attorneys Fighting for Injured Pedestrians in Washington DC

City planners in Washington, DC are installing a second traffic signal that offers pedestrians a crossing in each direction, including diagonally, in Columbia Heights. The move prioritizes pedestrians (and their safety) over vehicles in this densely populated neighborhood.

Why the New Addition?

The traffic signal is called the “Barnes Dance” or “Pedestrian Scramble.” The design has made a comeback in highly populated urban areas throughout the United States, especially with more consumers leaving vehicles at home and opting for their two feet or bicycles.

The signal for the Columbia Heights area is named after the traffic engineer, Henry Barnes, who designed and implemented this popular traffic signal in several cities. Right now, the new one is planned for the intersection of 14th and Irving Street near the Metro station.

Right now, this very intersection sees approximately 3,500 pedestrians per day, with 1,500 vehicles during rush hour. The pedestrian coordinator for the city, George Branyan, hopes to avoid automobile-pedestrian incidents, especially where vehicles turn from the one-way route on 14th Street and head east on Irving Street.

The intersection has seen numerous accidents in the past, and automobile-pedestrian incidents are especially devastating.

Pedestrians now have their time with the traffic signal and they can go in any direction they want; while vehicles must wait.

Pedestrian-friendly intersections are nothing new. In fact, they have been around since 1940. However, when cars became more popular and federal disability laws grew more stringent, they fell out of favor. Disability laws require that a sidewalk has a ramp in every direction, which is impossible with the diagonal design because it is too long, and someone with disabilities might be unable to cross in the designated amount of time.

A signal was removed from the area in the 1980s because of the disability issues, however, they are making a comeback as more cities focus on multimodal transportation options for residents.

Will the Signal Stop Pedestrian-Automobile Accidents?

No one can say for sure, but the more pedestrian-friendly intersections there are, the fewer accidents expected. When pedestrians have more options for crossing, they do not need to jaywalk or risk being struck by a vehicle at night while crossing.

The Dangers of the Average Crosswalk

Automobile versus pedestrian accidents or auto-ped accidents happen when motorists are out of control of their vehicles or distracted. Often, motorists forget to look for pedestrians, even in designated crosswalks.

When a driver is multitasking and takes their eyes off the road, pedestrians are often the victims. Driving under the influence is another cause of accidents involving pedestrians because drivers who are impaired have lowered reaction times and impaired judgment.

Auto pedestrian incidents carry a higher fatality rate compared to other types of motor vehicle accidents. The sheer force of a vehicle compared to the body mass of the average human means that a pedestrian is struck with thousands of pounds of force. Even a slower moving vehicle can lead to extensive damage, and often a fatality.

What to do if You Have Been Hit by a Vehicle

Whether you were in the crosswalk or walking along the street, if you are struck by a motor vehicle you may be entitled to compensation. Speak with a personal injury advocate at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today to explore your options. You can also request your free case evaluation online.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.