Are Pedestrians Safe?
In 2019, over 6000 pedestrians died in traffic accidents across the United States, which is the highest it has been in over a decade. This became a problem that I was passionate about solving. My goal is to solve this problem. I first began with research.
Traffic accidents were at an all-time low in 2009, but afterward, there was a sudden spike and the number of deaths increased by 35%. What was the cause of this sudden increase? Most likely, smartphones, in 2009 smartphones began to be widely popular and became a cause of distraction for both motorists and pedestrians. Additionally, many accidents are caused by the misuse of crosswalks. More than 47% of traffic-related accidents are some way the result of pedestrians misusing crosswalk signals or jaywalking. This means raising awareness about the issue.
From this, we can conclude that a large part of the issue is that people aren't educated about safety rules or need to be reminded.
To understand more, I spoke with crossing guards at my local elementary school. After speaking with them I gathered examples of how motorists either don't know the rules or need to be reminded. For example, one of the crossing guards has repeatedly noticed that drivers often cross over the second white line of a crosswalk, which is a safety hazard for pedestrians. All the crossing guards I talked to also added that the biggest problem was that drivers were often distracted and wouldn't stop at a crosswalk until a crossing guard had to physically step into the street, and putting themselves in danger.
The second part of my research was concerning the sign itself. Many crosswalks in the united states have a sign in the middle of the road that alerts drivers to stop:
Additionally, to this some areas may have a stop sign, however, there is a fundamental problem with these types of signs. Research done by The FHWA’s(Federal High Way Association) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program has found that stagnant signs such as these lose their effect on drivers fast. The main goal of these bright neon signs is to alert the driver. Even if they aren't paying attention, the abrupt change in color will trigger the drivers brain and they should stop. However, the brain is able to adapt to these discrepancies well. To put it simply, if for example, a person were to drive by the same crosswalk every day for months or years everything they see on their journey becomes normal to them and it blends into the background. Neon signs such as these don't alert the brain as they have seen it so many times.
My conclusion from this was that the solution I have can't be stagnant if I were to make a device or a sign it needs to be able to change its light pattern, or its colors so that people don't become accustomed to it.
Based on this conclusion I wanted to explore traffic signals:
These signs are placed by the government and cost over 10,000 dollars to manufacture and implement, something that every school can't afford. However even these have their flaws. The lights flash on button-timer based system, which means a person presses the button and the lights flash for 10 to 15 seconds. The problem with this is that the time it takes for a person to cross the street varies and the lights may still be flashing even after a person leaves the crosswalk. Or a person may still be in the crosswalk while the light has turned off. The issue is that the lights aren't accurate with the people in the crosswalk so motorists aren't able to take the lights seriously. If half the time the lights are false and there aren't pedestrians in the crosswalk people will start ignoring the lights like the signs.
The conclusion from this is that whatever I make, eventually, should have the capability to accurately sense if there is a person in the crosswalk.
The final piece of research was about what my city has to solve this issue. In 2016 there were over 86 accidents in my city Fremont, California. This number was quite shocking to me as I didn't know that in one city alone so many accidents could occur. It confirmed the reasoning to start with the local elementary school as the problem is very prevalent. Among these accidents was one near a Fremont school, Cabrillo Elementary school, where a 5-year old was hit by a car.
Fremont has been putting more signals and lights to reduce these accidents. My analysis includes the following.
86 accidents occurred in 2015 before Fremont started putting crosswalk safety lights.
The project included adding more street lights and electronic crossing signals
These initiatives seem to be working as 2016-17 the accident reduced by 40%.
What I have learned is that the data provided shows that by adding more lights to direct attention to crossing signals it made crosswalk safer, hence fewer accidents.
With this research done I began my project;
The project is split into two parts a campaign and making a smart crosswalk sign. The objective of the campaign is to remind motorist and pedestrians of traffic laws regarding crosswalk safety. The second part of this project is to make the crosswalk sign smart to alert motorist when pedestrians are crossing. The device detects people in the crosswalk using a visual sensor it then alerts drivers by flashing lights. This device is implemented on the pre-placed state law sign. Additionally this sign will be less expensive than ones found online.
Learn more about the project: