The Investigators

Feb 24, 2014 8:20 PM by Nichole Szemerei

The danger of crosswalks

TUCSON - We all know using a crosswalk doesn't guarantee our safety, but what's shocking - studies show you are more likely to be hit in a crosswalk than outside of the lines.

"You think I'm in a crosswalk, I'm fine," says Daryl Cole, Director of Tucson Department of Transportation.

Not the case. Studies compared crosswalks only marked with lines and no lights to unmarked crosswalks at unsignalized intersections. Results were eye-opening.

The Federal Highway Administration says pedestrian crash rates are two to three times higher in marked crosswalks.

Here's a look at the numbers: this data was collected over five years from 400 intersections in California, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia. There were a total of 188 crashes in marked crosswalks and only 41 at unmarked crossings.

2 lanes: marked 37 - unmarked 23
3 or 4 lanes: marked 94 - unmarked 12
5 or more lanes: marked 57 - unmarked 6
Total: marked 188 - unmarked 41

Faye Goodspeed has been trying to get a crosswalk put in across Wetmore between Stone and First Avenue for four years.

"There's 54 homes here, just within a few steps. So, we have Wal-Mart, we have Best Buy, obviously Starbucks is a huge draw, particularly in the morning," says Goodspeed.

The Tucson Department of Transportation says it's now going a different direction with crosswalks in Tucson.

"We don't want mid-block crossings by themselves unprotected. We think that's not a good decision, we'd rather you walk down to the signaled intersection if at all possible," says Cole.

There's a list of 100 locations where "HAWK" crossings, with flashing lights to warn drivers, will be put in over the course of about 10 years.

"He said we are on the list, whatever the list is. We are on the list for a HAWK light here," says Goodspeed.

The danger of a marked crosswalk isn't due to the markings themselves, but pedestrians lack of caution when using one.

"A pedestrian becomes more complacent as they go across and don't look at the oncoming traffic, or do their due diligence, even though they have the right-of-way," says Cole.

"We have some good drivers and we have some not so good drivers and some people aren't paying attention. We have the distractions, you know cell phones, texting and so we need some kind of visible, high visibility to get our pedestrians across busy streets."

The city also wanted to add that factors like number of lanes, speed limit, car volume, and lighting all play a role in what makes a crossing safe or unsafe.

If you have a story for the News 4 Tucson Investigators, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call (520) 955-4444.

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