studies on crosswalk safety?

Ann Arbor, Michigan recently began enforcing a law that requires cars to stop when a pedestrian approaches a crosswalk (crosswalks at signal-controlled intersections are exempted). Article and comments here. This is serious: if you get caught not stopping when a pedestrian is standing at the side of the road waiting to cross, you can be fined $100 and get two points on your license.

Some of the crosswalks where this law applies are on roads with speed limits as high as 45 MPH. One commenter at the above link has claimed that research has shown this scenario is a bad idea and will result in some heinous rear-end car accidents. I’m inclined to believe this is true, but I’m curious to see real evidence. Is anyone here aware of such research? Got any links?

(FWIW, I like the idea of making life easier for pedestrians in a car-dominated world, but I think everyone would be safer if the city installed crossing lights at these mid-block crosswalks so that approaching cars could see the red light from a long ways off.)

It’s enforced pretty strictly in the resort town where I live. Problem is, many of these peds have no idea where they are going, and just stand there. You stop for them and they wave you on.

It has worked well in Britain for many years, so why wouldn’t it work in Ann Arbor? Sweden introduced stricter laws a number of years ago and there was a slight increase in accidents at cross-walks if I remember correctly, not car drivers rear-ending each other but thoughtless pedestrians just walking across not minding the traffic.

My wife lived in Germany in the late 80s and she’s always talked about how the Germans always stopped for pedestrians at or approaching crosswalks. Apparently they take it very seriously over there.

In Toronto (Ontario, I guess) they don’t have a rule that draconian. However, there is a law that says you can’t go through a crosswalk while there is a pedestrian anywhere in the crosswalk. The law is pretty much never enforced, if it were traffic in Toronto would crawl to a dead stop.

I can’t imagine having to stop just because somebody on the sidewalk stopped to answer their phone.

Very, very seriously, to the point that most pedestrians don’t even look at the cars before they start across. Germans are very serious about their traffic-related rights. I was taken aback on my first visit to either France or Italy when I found that drivers basically didn’t acknowledge pedestrian crossings.

The original poster mentioned that this is going to apply to roads with a speed limit of 45 MPH/70 KPH, though. Braking from 70 to 0 in a couple of seconds is non-trivial. Would pedestrians in Germany really step out in front of a car going that fast?

Yes, the speed is the issue. Making cars stop mid-block on 30-MPH streets is a fine thing; making it happen on 45-MPH streets strikes me as much more hazardous. The specific situation I have in mind is a mid-block crosswalk that is marked but doesn’t have any lights that indicate exactly when a pedestrian is intending to cross. In this situation, the lead car stops, and then must rely upon the cars approaching from his six (at 45-50MPH) to notice that he’s at a dead stop in their lane.

In Boulder, Colorado, such mid-block crosswalks have indicator lights: the pedestrian pushes a button that causes high-mounted lights on posts to flash for 20-30 seconds. While a driver should be expected to notice a car stopped dead in his lane, the sad fact is that many don’t; flashing lights on sign posts next to the road seem much more likely to attract the desired attention.

Bottom line: can anyone point to studies regarding crosswalks and vehicles yielding to pedestrians on high-speed roads?

Yes, and I hate those crosswalks in Boulder. I don’t care about stopping for a pedestrian. It’s the danger of it. I routinely see one car stop for a flashing light, and the car in the other lane go right through. If you haven’t seen these, the lights are some LED flashers on the crossing sign by the side of the road. If you’re not expecting to see them, then they are easy to miss. These are not overhead flashing yellow lights or something, and are not in the place US drivers look for traffic control signals. To make it even worse, several run through built up medians, so it’s impossible to see somebody coming through the cross walk from the other side of the street.

If it’s important to have mid-block crossing points (and in many cases I think it is, because otherwise there can be rampant jay walking, which is also dangerous) then the city should find the budget to install proper pedestrian controlled traffic lights.

Until I see a real study I’m going to call it confirmation bias, but it seems that the mid-block, flashing light cross walks have lots of accidents. The town I’m in now is planning on removing some non-flashing, mid-block cross walks on a four lane 40mph street, because the number of accidents is too high (apparently the continuously flashing “watch for pedestrian” sign isn’t working). They are studying replacing them with pedestrian controlled traffic lights.

I don’t think there’s anything GQ about my answer, but I wanted to add a counterpoint to the flashing lights being more noticeable. They probably are, and I still see plenty of people ignore them.

It’s a superfluous law, and engenders jaywalking. If a motorist has to wait for a signal, so should a pedestrian.

You may have missed the part about signal controlled intersections being exempt.

I recall Toronto had a fairly serious traffic fatality rate several decades ago; many deaths were due to pedistrians hit at crosswalks. On a fast, 4-lane road, one car would stop for the pedestrian; the other car coming up beside them would assume the first was stopped for a left turn, go around them, and take out the pedestrian as they came out from in front of the car. IIRC, this is why they have a lot of flashing crosswalk signs now; also, yes, you are supposed to wait until the pedestrian is no longer on your side of the road - crossed the median, or on the curb. Finally, they came up with the rule no passing/changing lanes within 100 feet(?) of a crosswalk.

Any rear-end collisions are the fault of the tailing driver unless the front driver switched lanes or something…

The problem with the rule you mention is that the rule is ambiguous. How close does the person have to be to the crosswalk? 5 feet away, 3 feet? Do they have to be turned toward the street, or is a 45-degree approach suffficient? How much leeway do you have to stop? Can you carry on if you obviously cannot stop?Sounds like a judgement call by any cop who wants to be a dick and give you a ticket. Good thing cops are polite and reasonable, just like the people they stop.

When I was a kid Elmer the Safety Elephant used to tell us to stop at the side of the crosswalk and point to indicate our intent to cross. I don’t see why at the least, that can’t be the determinant for when cars should stop.

A google search of this phrase (no quotes) returned many promising looking results.

accident rates related to zebra stripe crossing

I have been rear-ended when stopping for a crosswalk. The driver who hit me was furious: why did I suddenly come to a stop for no reason? Fortunately, neither the pedestrian about to cross nor anybody else was injured.

On the other hand, if the pedestrian had started to cross and he had been going a little faster when he hit me, it could have been my car that caused a pedestrian’s death, which is a scary thought.

They get just as killed when they jaywalk at a signal, and while the driver may eventually be exonerated, it’s a bit like killing a burglar in your home. However, it shouldn’t be the right of the pedestrian to judge whether or not a car can safely stop in time for them, nor the responsibility of the motorist to overcome the judgement errors of pedestrians in the case of unsignaled crossings…

Speed limits in urban areas in Germany are lower than that; while, in Germany like everywhere, there are people who think the lollipop-shaped speed-limit signs are ads for Chupa Chups, going 20-40km/h over the limit in towns is not common IME.

Its a bit of a big deal where I live (Jersey shore) and real pain. I fail to see why pedestrians can’t just wait until there is a break in traffic (or go to a light) before waltzing out like they are immune to injury. Even some of the local police chiefs have asked for this law to be changed. It can cause serious issues on a four lane road when the driver in the right lanes sees a ped starting to cross but the guy in the left lane doesn’t. He may or may not notice the right lane driver slowing and the ped continues on assuming it is safe. Brakes are being slammed on when peds walk out because the law says they can and rear end accidents are happening. I walk around town in the summer more than I drive and I find it safer to wait. What’s the rush? The beach/bar/restaurant will still be there in another minute. Use some common sense! No, wait. You’re on vacation - never mind.

We have similar laws here, with the fines being around $500. I agree that there is conflict in the law between drivers not stopping for pedestrians who are obviously trying to cross, pedestrians just striding out without looking after their own safety, and pedestrians who just stand around on street corners without any intention to cross, but I don’t know what a better solution is - just waiting for traffic to ease up doesn’t work on busy streets, and going to a corner with lights to cross is a long way to walk sometimes.

At signal-controlled intersections, pedestrians are expected to wait because they will get a green light in a reasonable amount of time. The crosswalks I’m thinking of are on a fast street on the north side of town (Plymouth Road), where they are positioned between two signal-controlled intersections that are half a mile apart. Pedestrians there rarely get a break from traffic; the goal of the law, presumably, is to give them an opportunity to cross without having to judge whether they can make it before approaching cars reach them.

It is not the right of the pedestrian to judge - but such judgment is within the legal authority of any police officer who happens to be observing the scene when you choose whether or not to stop.

The motorist is not automatically responsible for the judgment errors of pedestrians. In fact, there was a case here eight years ago where two women crossed Plymouth Road to the median, and then inexplicably turned around and immediately headed back to where they came from; they were struck and killed by a vehicle, but the driver of that vehicle was exonerated because it was determined that he had been traveling the speed limit and could not have stopped in time when the women suddenly reversed course.

Exactly. Pedestrian crossing with zebra stripes are routinely in zones where you can’t drive faster than 30 kph; in other streets that are busier and faster, there will be a pedestrian light that has traffic stop for the red light.