HAWK System Will Increase Pedestrian Safety

Author: Carol C. Bradley

The University, in cooperation with St. Joseph County, has installed a new type of traffic signal this week that has been proven to increase pedestrian safety when crossing the street. The new signal is known as a “HAWK” signal, an acronym that stands for high-intensity activated crosswalk.

The HAWK signal has been installed near the intersection of Twyckenham Drive and Vaness Street, the first of its kind in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties. HAWK signals were developed by the city of Tucson, Ariz., in 2004. They have since been installed by many other states and in Washington, D.C.

“We’re excited to have the new system up and active,” says Tim Sexton, associate vice president, state and local affairs. “We feel it’s a huge step in safety for both students and members of the community that cross at that intersection. It’s a heavily traveled area, and getting back and forth across the road has been a challenge.”

Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of motorists properly yield to pedestrians in crosswalks using HAWK signal. The HAWK signal at Twyckenham Drive is replacing a traditional pedestrian crossing. It will be more effective at increasing motorist awareness of pedestrians in the crosswalk.

When not in use, the HAWK traffic signal is dark to motorists, and a solid orange raised hand indicating “Don’t Walk” is displayed for pedestrians. When a pedestrian pushes the crosswalk button, motorists see a flashing yellow signal for several seconds. After the flashing yellow interval, the traffic signal displays a solid yellow, alerting motorists to get ready to stop.

Much like traditional traffic signals, the “walking person” symbol soon changes to a flashing orange hand with a countdown display showing the number of seconds left to cross the street.

As with all pedestrian crossing signals, pedestrians should not start crossing the street if the flashing orange hand and countdown timer is showing. During this time, drivers see alternating flashing red signals, like at a railroad-crossing signal. When the flashing red is displayed, drivers may proceed after stopping if there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk.