LANSING, MI – Motorists and residents in several southwest Michigan cities likely are noticing new crosswalk signs installed as part of a joint research project by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Western Michigan University (WMU).
The research project involves testing the crosswalk signs as potential low-cost safety measures to increase pedestrian safety and motorist awareness.
Dr. Ron Van Houten, the traffic safety research expert leading the WMU study, said the study already is showing signs of increased pedestrian safety. “People are looking for pedestrians with the signs there,” he said. “Our data shows drivers slow a bit, their heads are turning, and that is a good thing in an urban environment.”
Carissa McQuiston, MDOT project manager and nonmotorized safety engineer, said the study is designed to increase pedestrian crossing awareness for pedestrians and drivers. Signs have been placed at crosswalks in the road at the edge lines, centerlines and lane lines.
“We have very good preliminary data that supports this installation as a way to inform drivers of pedestrian presence and highlight their crossing activity,” McQuiston said. “With these installations, the researchers are collecting data about pedestrian safety, drivers yielding, and the durability of the signs.”
Van Houten said while the signs are designed to withstand some of abuse from traffic, there has to be a balance of durability and cost. “Ideally, they will last a long time,” he said. “It will cost the department more money if they have to replace them frequently.”
The signs are designed to be permanently affixed to the pavement but have the capability of being removed for the winter when snow removal is necessary. The signs will be removed in mid-November this year, and the research results are expected to be published early next year.
Installation sites were chosen primarily to get a variety of intersection configurations; e.g., full intersections, roundabouts, mid-block crosswalks, etc. Van Houten said several factors were considered, such as lane width, the messages on signs, and the types of signs used.
The signs have been installed at 10 crosswalks in three roundabouts and six intersections in five MDOT Southwest Region communities:
– Monroe Street mid-block crossing between Chestnut and North Walnut streets, Allegan
– East Main Street and 5th Street, Benton Harbor
– West Main Street and Riverview Drive, Benton Harbor
– South Westnedge Avenue and Ranney Street, Kalamazoo
– Kalamazoo Avenue and West Michigan Avenue traffic circle, Marshall
– West Michigan Avenue and Grand Street, Marshall
– East Michigan Avenue and Madison Street, Marshall
– East Michigan Avenue and Hamilton Street, Marshall
– North Main Street between Portage Avenue and M-60/Michigan Avenue, Three Rivers
MDOT hopes this study will help move Michigan roadways Toward Zero Deaths. MDOT is working with partners statewide on the Toward Zero Deaths safety campaign based on the National Strategy on Highway Safety, which is intended to influence driver behavior and improve safety. For more information on the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, visit MDOT’s website at www.michigan.gov/zerodeaths.