I have been hearing and reading about the high rate of pedestrian accidents in Hawaii recently and it got me thinking about a solution to this problem. What I came up with is what I believe is the best solution that is also very simple and will make a huge difference for pedestrians AND drivers immediately upon implementation.
STOP THE FLASHING RED HAND (and flashing Don’t Walk. Hereafter to be considered to be included in “red hand” reference)!
My contention is that the current flashing red hand signals do NOT convey what is the actual law and is in fact counter-intuitive to the law.
Here are the guidelines for pedestrian law as it relates to Control Signals (Reference: Department of Transportation: Pedestrian Guidelines):
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
(1) Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
(2) Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady, but any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.
(3) Pedestrians shall obey instructions on any traffic-control device specifically applicable, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
(4) Please see attachment on samples of instructions to cross at control signal lights.
Number 1 above is not in question and really that is more of a driver education thing because it has more to do with the driver giving the pedestrian the right of way. We HAVE driver knowledge requirements in place through our licensing process.
Number 3 is an exception and note to D.O.T. I could NOT find any “attachment” for samples, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because my whole argument for the change is based on a “common sense” or “intuitive” solution. If I have to read a sample to learn the right way then that requires educating the whole pedestrian community and that is not practical.
I do not believe that Number 2 needs to be changed. The law is fine as it reads although it could be tweaked to match exactly what I am proposing, it is not necessary. The problem is the actual traffic-control device with the flashing red hand. I propose that we NEVER use a FLASHING red hand because a SOLID red hand is VERY INTUITIVE and means STOP! Do NOT enter the cross walk!
Laws and other rules that you are not “born with” have to be learned. To teach everyone who is going to be a pedestrian in Hawaii is just not practical nor probable. Which is why it is even more critical that the every day signage reflect the law or at the very least convey a message that will allow a pedestrian to have the best chance of not violating a law of which they have no knowledge of.
My proposed solution is simple, NO FLASHING red hand:
- Where there is only WALK (white walking person) or DON’T WALK (red hand). From the white WALK signal when pedestrians are NOT allowed to ENTER the crosswalk it should turn to a steady red DON’T WALK. Even if there is still time for the pedestrians already in the crosswalk to cross before the traffic signal for the automobiles change to green.
- Where there is the countdown capability the red hand should be a NON-flashing red hand and the countdown blinks. If you are someone who is already in the crosswalk you know how long you have to finish crossing. BUT because the red hand is NOT flashing anyone approaching the crosswalk is not given the impression that they should figure out if they “can make it” across the crosswalk because the hand clearly shows that they should NOT enter the crosswalk.
I believe these changes are intuitive and addresses what I believe is the biggest problem in the current system which sends the wrong message to the pedestrian. The current signal situation allows the pedestrian to think they have the choice to enter the crosswalk at the time of a flashing signal. Which by law they don’t.
If stopped by an officer (and ALL offenders of this should be stopped and ticketed because they mess up drivers big time by tested their athletic abilities. Sorry, pet peeve diversion.), the officer simply asks them what does a solid red hand mean? It is a lot harder to claim ignorance of something that is pretty damn straight forward. It means stop. But, but, the countdown! The countdown is for the people already in the crosswalk. No means no. Red hand means stop. Here is your ticket.
Now for those of you who want to make the argument that a NON-flashing red hand would cause the pedestrians ALREADY IN the crosswalk to immediately stop. Really?! Just because the red hand comes on you’re going to stand in the middle of the street and let the traffic drive around you? Not likely. If they do stop like that, then their fate is letting nature take it course because they are not meant to be a pedestrian and won’t be around too much longer anyways.
More likely it would cause the conscientious pedestrian the speed up. Which is a good thing. Because they should be getting their butts out of the way and letting the cars that want to turn actually have some time to do so before the light changes. Thus restoring some sanity for the drivers who sit there watching those people who believe it is legal to do so, and who I am going to give them that benefit of the doubt, look at the countdown and flashing red hand and decide that they can indeed make it across in time. Even though in doing so they are breaking the law and preventing me from making my turn therefore making me more mad and causing road rage and…..oooops, sorry!
In any case that is my solution, would love to hear what you think and if anyone has a better idea. Post them here as I’d love to see what other think!
Also, now that I’ve written this down, does anyone know who I should forward this to that might be able to get it done?