How to be safe at traffic lights

How to be safe at traffic lights

Begin With A Safe Approach To The Intersection

    1. Start by making sure you are in the correct lane before you reach the intersection. Be aware of the “blind spots” of the other drivers and stay out of them.
  • Always signal your turn so other drivers know your intentions.
  • Avoid any distractions like loud music or conversation. Keep your hands on the wheel and be prepared to brake suddenly. Stay off your cell phone, do not apply makeup or eat food, and do not play with your radio. Distracted driving is one of the major cause of accidents at intersections, so make sure that you are fully paying attention to the drivers around you.
  • When slowing down, match the pace of the car in front of you. Watch their brake lights to anticipate when they are going to slow down and when they have come to a complete stop.
  • Do not tailgate or rush the light. Tailgating and rushing the light reduces the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, increasing your risk of accident if they stop suddenly. Tailgating behind larger vehicles can also impair your vision so you cannot adequately predict the traffic.
  • When pulling up to the intersection, keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. One car length is recommended, so if you get rear-ended you will not crash into the car in front of you.
  • Inspect the intersection. Look for stoplights, stop signs, turning lights and restrictions, one way signs, road blocks or construction, pedestrians and crosswalks, and bike lanes. Be aware of anything that could potentially create a collision.
  • Watch for other vehicles. Watch the vehicles in front of you, behind you, beside you, and in oncoming traffic. Then look both ways to see where other vehicles are, what their intentions are at the intersection. Be aware of everyone’s motivations, so that you can react defensively while you cross.
  • Keep your wheel straight and your foot on the brake while waiting to cross the intersection.

Safety At A Stop Sign

    1. When approaching a stop sign, stop at the painted line or behind the curb.
  • Stop signs require drivers to take turns before proceeding through the intersection, so it is important you understand who has the right of way. The right of way is whoever reaches the intersection first, then goes in turn to the right of the drivers. If there is confusion about who has the right of way always allow the other car to go first or wait until they signal you to go.
  • If there is a car in front of you, wait 2 seconds until you move forward in case they make a sudden stop.
  • Never run a stop sign, even if it looks like there is no one else at the intersection.

Quick Tip: Do you know why you’re supposed to stop for a full 2 seconds? When you’re in a moving vehicle, it can sometimes feel like you’ve stopped when you really haven’t. By stopping for a full 2 seconds, you are able to ensure that your vehicle really did come to a stop. Just count “one thousand and one, one thousand and two”, then proceed if clear. If you follow this quick tip, you’ll never get a ticket for rolling through a stop sign!

VIDEO EXPLANATION: Right-Of-Way For A 4 Way Intersection With Stop Signs

Safety At A Stop Light

    1. At green light, do not just proceed instantly. Look both ways to make sure that there are no other cars still going. Look ahead to make sure the traffic isn’t stop. Wait until there is room for your car on the other side of the intersection, do not ever wait in the center of the intersection.
  • At a yellow light, evaluate your speed, the distance to the light, and the time the light has been yellow. If there is time to cross the intersection, proceed with caution. If not, brake. Never “gun it” through a yellow light.
  • At a red light, always stop. Never run a red light.
  • If you are making a turn at a red light, first make sure there are no posted restriction. Then check the vehicles on the left and the right, and oncoming traffic, making sure that your path is clear. Also check for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • If you are turning left, wait for the arrow. If there is no arrow or if it legal to cross without an arrow, be aware of all oncoming traffic before making a turn. Never hang in the center of the intersection to wait to make a turn.
  • If the traffic lights are not functioning, treat them the way you would treat an intersection with stop signs.

Safety At A Roundabout

    1. Know who has the right of way. The vehicles in the roundabout always have the right of way.
  • Never stop in the roundabout unless you have to because of traffic.
  • Do not change lanes in the roundabout, always stay in your lane.
  • Always signal your entry to the roundabout and your exit.
  • Be very aware of pedestrians and cyclists, roundabouts can be more dangerous for them.
  • Be mindful of other vehicles, roundabouts are a newer form of intersection in America and a lot of drivers do not know how to navigate them properly.

VIDEO: How To Navigate A Roundabout Safely

When Proceeding Through An Intersection

    1. Never enter an intersection if the traffic is backed up on either side. Wait until it is clear to move through the intersection.
  • Never change lanes in the middle of an intersection, this is both dangerous and illegal. Wait until you are past the intersection to change lanes.
  • Never race through an intersection. Instead follow the pace of traffic so your actions are predictable.
  • If a vehicle is stopped at an intersection or in the middle of the intersection, use extra caution when proceeding.
  • Watch for cross traffic, other cars may be running a red light or a stop sign. Always be aware of what other drivers are doing.

If you follow these tips, you will be able to cross any intersection safely. For more information about driving safely through intersections, consider taking an Illinois adult online drivers education class.

Like road signs, traffic signals are designed to communicate important information about current or upcoming road conditions to motorists and pedestrians. They are also used to control the flow of traffic, telling drivers when they must stop, prepare to stop or proceed.

  1. Traffic lights for drivers
  2. Pedestrian signals
  3. Reversible lane control signals
  4. Railroad signals
  5. Drawbridge signals and signs

You will encounter traffic lights:

  • At controlled intersections
  • At mid-block pedestrian crossings
  • Managing pedestrian traffic at busy crosswalks
  • At many railroad crossings
  • At drawbridges

Traffic lights differ from printed road signs in that they do not remain the same. Instead, they can be switched on or off to suit changing situations on the roadway. Many signaling devices also have multiple settings with different meanings. As a budding motorist and road user, you must know how to interpret traffic lights when you encounter them in different situations.

Traffic lights for drivers

The first article in this section covers the most commonly encountered traffic lights, which manage traffic flow through controlled intersections or mid-block pedestrian crosswalks. Unless protected turn lanes are present at an intersection, each line of traffic should only have basic red, yellow and green traffic lights to contend with. Arrow signal lights indicate a lane reserved exclusively for turning, such as a center left-turn lane. We start our exploration of traffic lights by learning the meaning behind each of these traffic control signal lights. Plus, we discuss what to do if you encounter a malfunctioning or inoperative signal at an intersection.

Mid-block pedestrian crosswalks are controlled by a unique type of signal known as hybrid beacons or “HAWK” signals. Unlike standard traffic lights at intersections, hybrid beacons remain inactive until a pedestrian activates a button on the sidewalk to indicate they wish to cross. “Traffic lights for Drivers” finishes up with a valuable step-by-step guide to interpreting hybrid beacons at mid-block pedestrian crossings.

Pedestrian signals

Signal lights that manage pedestrian traffic are often found at busy intersections. Electronic signs displaying “WALK”, “DON’T WALK” or symbols indicating these two actions are posted on crosswalks, to let pedestrians know when they have right-of-way and may safely cross the street. Of course, pedestrians must still cross with extreme caution, even when a “WALK” signal is active.

Find out how to abide by pedestrian signals safely here. You will also discover useful information about different types of pedestrian crossing and the signals which typically accompany them. This includes “on-demand” crosswalks and “pedestrian scrambles”. Understanding pedestrian signals is vital. Remember, the moment you step out of your vehicle – you are a pedestrian too.

Reversible lane control signals

These signals are also aimed at drivers, though you will only find them on multi-lane streets where the lawful use of one or more lanes alters throughout the day. Modifying the direction or use of a lane can make it easier to manage heavy, changeable traffic conditions. Above these reversible lanes, signal lights are displayed on large horizontal boards which can be seen by drivers traveling in both directions. All motorists must know what different reversible lane control signals mean, to determine whether they may drive in that lane.

Highway metering lights are another type of lane control signal which are only used on some limited-access highway entrance ramps. The color of the meter signal indicates whether drivers must wait at the end of the ramp or merge with highway traffic right away. Everything you need to know about metering lights and reversible lane control signals can be found in this section.

Railroad signals

Around 50 percent of railroad crossings on public roadways are managed by flashing red warning lights. Often, these signals are accompanied by an audio signal in the form of a warning bell and/or a safety gate that closes the crossing when trains are approaching.

The message behind a flashing red light at a crossing is simple and clear: do not enter the crossing, a train is coming.

Drivers MUST obey railroad signals and check for trains by looking down the track in both directions, even when an inactive signal indicates that it is safe to cross. The time difference between a signal light being activated and the train passing through the junction can vary wildly from one railroad crossing to the next. No matter how long you have been waiting at a crossing, do not seek to cross if:

  • A red warning light is active
  • A bell is sounding
  • A safety gate is closed or in the process of closing
  • A flagger indicates that a train is coming

What happens if you encounter a railroad crossing without signal lights? Don’t worry, that essential safety information is covered in this article too!

Drawbridge signals and signs

Drawbridges are mechanical bridges operated by a person known as a “drawbridge tender”. These bridges carry motorists and pedestrians but can be opened to allow marine traffic to pass underneath. Drivers must be able to interpret the signs and signals used around drawbridges – which can pose a serious hazard to road users. The final article in this section discusses safe drawbridge use for motorists and pedestrians. Here, you will learn what each drawbridge signal means and get acquainted with some vital safety tips.

How to be safe at traffic lights

Cyclescheme, 01.04.2016

Stop at red, go on green: traffic lights are simple, aren’t they? For cycle commuters, there’s a few other things to consider.

Cyclists need to take extra care at traffic lights. For some road users, a red light is like a red rag: an excuse to get angry (or careless) and break the rules. Yet it’s not bad luck or someone else’s fault that the light wasn’t green. It’s maths. Most lights will be red. Even at a two-way junction with equal timing, each light will be red half the time; at a similar three-way junction, the lights will be red two thirds of the time; and so on. Waiting is what traffic lights are for.

Fortunately, cyclists don’t have to wait as much. Not because red lights can be ignored on a bike, whatever a minority of metropolitan cyclists think, but because on a bike you can filter. Even better, you can often avoid traffic lights entirely by taking backstreets and cycle tracks. Such a route can be quicker, not to mention quieter, even if it’s less direct.

If you can’t go around traffic lights, however, you’ll have to go through…

HIGHWAY CODE RECAP

What the signals mean isn’t the same as how they’re often interpreted.

When the lights are on red: Stop at the solid white line. If the light is just turning red, listen out for the accelerating engine of driver who has decided to chance it. Move to one side if necessary.

When the lights are on amber: Stop at the stop line. Go on only if you’ve already crossed the stop line or you’re so close to it that you risk an accident by stopping. Glance back to check on traffic behind you.

When the lights are changing from amber to green: Don’t proceed until green shows. You can put one or even both feet on the pedals and start rolling forward, so long as you don’t cross the stop line before the light is green.

When the lights are on green: A green traffic light doesn’t mean it’s safe to go. It means ‘go ahead if the way is clear’. Similarly for a green filter arrow. You’re less likely to get stuck halfway across a junction on a bike, but it can happen. Avoid.

THE APPROACH

When approaching traffic lights on your bike, shift into a gear that you can accelerate away in. Cover the brakes. Glance behind. And always assume that you might have to stop.

If traffic conditions allow, adjust your speed so that you time your arrival at the lights to avoid stopping. Don’t race recklessly for a green, but do back off the pace if you see a red, slowing more and more as you approach. It’s easier to stop when you’re going slowl y, a nd the light may change, enabling you to carry on. It takes less time and effort to get back up to speed if your bike is moving, so you’ll spend less time crossing the junction.

TRAFFIC LIGHT SENSORS AND CYCLISTS

If there’s no other traffic around, make sure that you ride over one of the flat rectangles in the tarmac on your approach. The sensor for the traffic light is under there. If you don’t ride over it, the light may stay red. Note that some sensors aren’t sensitive enough to pick up a single cyclist. The safest option then is to go around the junction as a pedestrian, pushing your bike. If you choose to cycle through a stuck red, do so with extreme caution.

GET IN POSITION

Unless you’re filtering (see below), use your approach to take up position in the centre of the leftmost lane that goes in the direction you’re heading. Take the lane. This will make your presence obvious to drivers – and your intentions unambiguous.

If you’re in the left-most lane and you’re too far to the left, you could be ‘left hooked’ by a left turning driver. If you’re in a centre or right-most lane and you’re too far to the left, you risk having traffic from behind you passing on both sides. If you’re too far left in any lane, a driver could pull up alongside you, hiding you from other traffic. Take that lane!

Don’t forget that you can give hand signals when stationary in, or at the head of a traffic queue, and not just while moving. That will leave the driver behind in no doubt of what you’re doing.

FILTER FORWARDS – SOMETIMES

Filtering past the traffic queue is perfectly legal. It’s something that Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) – those green boxes with a painted bike outline – actively encourage. They’re there because it’s safer for everyone if cyclists get through the junction first, rather than being overtaken by drivers in the middle of the junction. When you get into an ASL, position yourself at the head of your lane.

ASLs often have a short cycle lane feeding into them. Treat these lanes with care, especially if they’re narrow and next to the kerb. There’s nothing to stop other traffic drifting into them, so do not use a kerbside cycle lane to pass a lorry or other long vehicle. If you fail to reach the ASL before the traffic starts to move, the lorry could drift or turn left and crush you.

Ordinarily, filtering is safest on the driver’s side – the right. You might prefer to filter on the left if: you’re turning left at the lights; there’s no long vehicle in front; and either there’s no ASL or you won’t reach it. If you were filtering on the right in this situation, you might have to cut across moving traffic to turn left.

You can still filter even if there’s no ASL. However, it is illegal to wait in front of the stop line. Stop behind the first vehicle in the queue, eyeball the driver behind you, and when the first driver starts to move, signal and move across to take the lane.

Conversely, you don’t have to use an ASL. If there are only a few cars in front, it can be just as practical to stay where you are and take your lane instead.

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How to be safe at traffic lights

Traffic control signals are devices placed along, beside, or above a roadway to guide, warn, and regulate the flow of traffic, which includes motor vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, and other road users.

How to be safe at traffic lights

RED—A red signal light means STOP.

A right turn can be made against a red light ONLY after you stop and yield to pedestrians and vehicles in your path. DO NOT turn if there is a sign posted for NO TURN ON RED.

FLASHING RED—A flashing red signal light means exactly the same as a stop sign: STOP! After stopping, proceed when safe and observe the right-of-way rules.

How to be safe at traffic lights

RED ARROW—A red arrow means STOP until the green signal or green arrow appears. A turn may not be made against a red arrow.

How to be safe at traffic lights

YELLOW—A yellow signal light warns you that the red signal is about to appear. When you see the yellow light, you should stop, if you can do so safely. If you can’t stop, look out for vehicles that may enter the intersection when the light changes.

FLASHING YELLOW—A flashing yellow signal light warns you to be careful. Slow down and be especially alert.

How to be safe at traffic lights

YELLOW ARROW—A lighted red arrow is about to appear. Stop if you are not already in the intersection.

GREEN—A green light means GO, but you must first let any vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians remaining in the intersection get through before you move ahead.

How to be safe at traffic lights

You can turn left ONLY if you have enough space to complete the turn before any oncoming vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian becomes a hazard. Vehicles turning left must always yield to those going straight from the opposite direction.

How to be safe at traffic lights

Do not enter an intersection, even when the light is green, unless there is enough space to cross completely before the light turns red. If heavy traffic causes you to block traffic, you can be cited.

How to be safe at traffic lights

GREEN ARROW—A green arrow means GO, but first you must yield to any vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian still in the intersection. The green arrow pointing right or left allows you to make a protected turn; oncoming vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are stopped by a red light as long as the green arrow is lit.

How to be safe at traffic lights

TRAFFIC SIGNAL BLACKOUT—If all traffic signal lights are not working because of an electrical power failure, you must stop at the intersection and then proceed when you know other turning and approaching vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians have stopped. A blacked-out traffic signal works the same as a four-way stop intersection.

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How to be safe at traffic lights

Image: Ingo Jezierski/Getty

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See it sway: three-eyed blind bat hanging from a wire. Or perhaps there: perched atop a pole, lights moving from top to bottom–green yellow red green yellow red–in its unvarying sequence. Two hundred years ago, it would have been a wonder, something on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851, gawked at by Victorians. Today it’s seen but unconsidered, passed under a dozen times a day by most of us, influencing how we move, shaping our cities, warping how we travel, and occasionally, inadvertently, helping to kill us. Consider the traffic light.

Is there anything lonelier than a solitary traffic light blinking to an empty road? It’s an establishing shot that screams: desolation. It plays on our fear that the mechanical world doesn’t care about us, and will exist long after we’re gone. The traffic light doesn’t need people. And yet.

Here’s the thing: traffic lights don’t really do anything.

They don’t–can’t–physically stop you. They don’t engage a barrier to prevent cars from going through the intersection, and lower that barrier when it’s time to drive. They won’t stop you from plowing into a hapless pedestrian at the intersection. No, they’re only a mechanical prop, a signifier of a social contract we’ve agreed to (and have written into law). They are a means of behavior change, and we (mostly) obey.

A Creative Director at [Smart Design](http://smartdesignworldwide.com/), Dan leads teams in creating new interaction paradigms across a wide range of products, spanning both digital and physical. He has written four books on design including his latest, [Microinteractions](http://smartdesignworldwide.com/news/microinteractions-designing-with-details-by-dan-saffer/). You can follow him on Twitter at [@odannyboy](https://twitter.com/odannyboy).

It is hard to think of a technology so widely adopted, so ubiquitous, so influential, and, yes, so well designed. Traffic lights are used by billions daily, even by the illiterate and unschooled. The lights are designed to be seen even in broad daylight, sometimes by using cap visors or, more recently, bright LEDs to make them visible. They can be aimed on many lanes of traffic or just one, with special Fresnel lenses like those used in lighthouses to focus the light on an intended viewing area and obscure it from other lanes of traffic.

The traffic light has evolved from dumb electro-mechanical objects to smarter, networked ones, able to adapt to the environment in sophisticated ways.

Originally, there were no traffic lights. For almost forty years we drove cars without them—not to mention the several millennia we rode horses sans lights, or any intersection control at all.
When the street light was invented by Lester Wire in Salt Lake City in 1912, they had no yellow lights, only green and red, with a buzzer to let drivers know the light was about to change. It didn’t take long to realize that this probably wasn’t the best solution, and thus the yellow light was born.

Red, at least in the West, has been the color of danger since at least the Romans. Green as “go” came from railroad signals, color-blind people be damned. But yellow is the easiest color to see. It’s the first color your eye can detect, because physics: more light is reflected from bright colors and thus with yellow, eyes become more stimulated.

The yellow light is by far the most sophisticated and cognitively challenging part of any traffic light. Red and green lights have had to consider timing, namely: how long should one side of the intersection remain green, the other red. This creates the “capacity” of a signal: how many vehicles can move through on a single change of the light. This, in turn, creates (or disrupts) flow throughout the entire traffic grid of a city. Longer green lights mean more vehicles move through the intersection. If one light is letting too many cars through, the next light might have traffic jams as cars pile up. This is how traffic can be (partially) controlled: by adjusting the capacity of traffic lights, letting more or less traffic pass through.

Sometimes it really would be more dangerous to stop than to run the yellow light.

The yellow light doesn’t really control capacity, but instead creates an ephemeral Zone of Decision around the intersection. When a light turns yellow, nearby drivers have a choice to make, quickly: do I speed up and drive through the yellow light, or do I slow down and stop? Driving instructors will of course always tell you that a yellow light means slow down and prepare to stop, but on the street, that’s not always how it works. Sometimes it really would be more dangerous to stop than to run the yellow. And sometimes those driving instructors are right: running the yellow is a terrible, dangerous idea. How do you know which is which?

Yellow lights generally last three to five seconds. Which means, when one appears, in the space of about a second, you’ve got to do a few intense calculations: how far you are away from the intersection, how fast you’re going, how clear the intersection is, and, increasingly, is there a camera that will take a picture of me running a red light if I time this wrong? This moment is the Zone of Decision. Guess wrong, and cars crash and people can get hurt or die, as thousands do every year.

How to be safe at traffic lights

So you finally got your driver’s license; what a feeling! You’ve been studying and planning; you took a driver’s education course and you read the manual for your permit and driving test. Surely you are ready to take on the world by now! Are you ready to hit the road? Great… let’s go!

Rules Of The Road At Signaled Intersections

The First Real Test

How to be safe at traffic lights

Here you are, a year after getting your driver’s license, coming up to an intersection with a flashing red light; what does that mean? As you get closer and start to slow down, you rack your brain to try to recall all of those books and tests and classes, but that seems like so long ago! Everyone knows that red means stop and green means go; you’ve been learning that since you were a small child. What about flashing red?

With hands gripped tight on the steering wheel, you come to a stop at the light and sit there. Is it going to turn green eventually? Should you just go? With cars coming up in your rearview mirror, you look both ways, hold your breath, and go through the intersection without incident. You exhale a sigh of relief and wonder; did I just do the right thing?

What To Do If Traffic Signals Are Malfunctioning

Safe Driving Tips: Signs And Signals

How to be safe at traffic lights

Traffic signals and signs can be obvious and they can be confusing, depending on what part of the country you live in. Stop signs, yield signs, green arrows, flashing yellow lights; they can all be tricky until you get used to them. If you want a breakdown to refresh your memory, here are a few safe driving tips to remind you just what red means.

Steady Red-y

How to be safe at traffic lights

A steady red light means that you need to come to a complete stop. Always. If there is a pedestrian crosswalk, stop before entering the crosswalk. Some roads may have a white line further back from the intersection with a sign to “Stop Here On Red.” Try not to go past that line as it is mostly for your protection if the intersection is tight. Also, most stop lights have detectors buried in the pavement that tells the traffic light that you are there and it is located under the road before the white stop line on most roadways.

Right On Red, Left On Red

How to be safe at traffic lights

In most states, after coming to a complete stop, you can turn right-on-red as long as there is no traffic coming your way. Look carefully and plan your escape when the coast is completely clear. Be on the lookout for signage that tells you “No Turn On Red” because this means that you must stay stopped at the red light even if there is not a car to be seen anywhere. If you are turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street, you can go left-on-red (unless otherwise marked) as long as there is no oncoming traffic.

The Unique Law In Pennsylvania

How to be safe at traffic lights

If you ever find yourself traveling through the lovely state of Pennsylvania, you have another option when you come to a red light. A new law went into effect recently that allows you to go through a red light (right, left, and straight) if you have been sitting at it for an extended period of time and there is no traffic coming in any direction. This law was originally created to assist motorcycles as they are often too light to trigger the traffic signal detector, but has now been extended to all motor vehicles. Again, be very careful as this requires no traffic to be effective.

Flashing Red Light

How to be safe at traffic lights

When you come to a flashing red light, you must always come to a complete stop. Flashing red lights should be treated as stop signs; if there is no traffic coming, you can continue on your travels. But unlike a steady red light, you are not going to eventually get a green light to go. If there is any traffic on the road, no matter how long you need to wait, you cannot go until traffic is clear. On that note, a flashing yellow light means that you can go through the intersection, but proceed with caution in case there is other traffic coming through.

Safe Driving Tips For The Other Colors: Yellow And Green

Yellow lights are a warnings that the traffic flow will soon change as the light is on its way to turning red. You need to stop before the crosswalk, or if you cannot come to a safe stop, you can proceed with caution through the intersection. Remember that you can still get a ticket if the light turns red while you are in the intersection, so let that help with your decisions.

Green still means go and when you have a green light, you have the right-of-way as long as you can do so safely. If you are turning left on a steady green light, you must yield to the oncoming traffic. Left turns do not have right-of-way on a steady green, but if a green arrow appears with a red light, you can make the left turn as long as there are no pedestrians or other vehicles in the way.

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Be Cautious

Not everything is as cut-and-dry as it would seem. Even red and green lights do not exactly mean stop and go, but there is always a bit of play. The best safe driving tip you can get? Err on the side of caution. It’s better to stop and yield to traffic than to rush out and risk an accident. With experience comes knowledge, so do your best to gain experience and stay safe while you do it.

Before discussing how intersection and crosswalk characteristics affect the travel of blind pedestrians, it is important to understand how blind and low vision pedestrians travel. This section gives an overview of this issue.

At any given time, people who are blind or visually impaired can travel and cross streets using a human guide, using a long, white cane to identify and avoid obstacles, using a dog guide, using special optical or electronic aids, or using no additional aid. Whatever aid is used, street crossing is comprised of a number of tasks.

  1. Locating the Street — First, pedestrians who are blind must determine when they reach a street. This is typically accomplished using a combination of cues, including the curb or slope of the ramp, traffic sounds and detectable warnings.
  2. Street Recognition — Next, blind pedestrians recognize or determine which street they have come to. This information is only occasionally provided in any accessible format, so pedestrians who are visually impaired develop a mental map and keep track of where they are within that map, usually by counting blocks and street crossings. Assistance may be sought from other pedestrians.
  3. Intersection Assessment — Next, pedestrians who are blind obtain critical information about intersection geometry, including the location of the crosswalk, the direction of the opposite corner, the number of intersecting streets, the width of the street to be crossed, and whether there are any islands or medians in the crosswalk. Vehicular sounds, where there is a stream of traffic on each street at the intersection, are used to infer intersection geometry.

Pedestrians with visual impairments also need to identify the type of traffic control system at an intersection. This may be determined by listening to traffic patterns through several light cycles, and searching the sidewalk area for poles with pushbuttons. However, it has become difficult or impossible to determine the type of traffic control at many intersections by listening. The inability to determine whether a crosswalk is pedestrian actuated may result in failure to use pedestrian push buttons and crossing at times other than the pedestrian phase.

  • Cross the Roadway — After determining the geometry of the intersection, aligning to face towards the destination curb, determining that the intersection is signalized, and having pushed a button (where necessary), pedestrians who are blind must recognize the onset of the walk interval. In the most common technique utilized for crossing at signalized intersections, pedestrians who are blind begin to cross the street when there is a surge of through traffic on the closest side of the street parallel to their direction of travel. Once pedestrians who are blind have begun to cross the street, they must maintain a heading toward the opposite corner. Turning traffic can make it difficult to establish a correct initial heading, and in the absence of traffic on the parallel street, pedestrians who are blind may veer toward or away from the intersection.
  • Optimal crossing conditions occur when crossing right angle signalized intersections with a moderate but steady flow of traffic through the intersection on each leg with a minimum of turning movements.

    Pedestrian actuation requires blind pedestrians to locate and push a pushbutton, then cross on the next pedestrian phase to be assured of having enough time to cross. Blind pedestrians have three types of problems at these locations:

    1. They cannot wait through a light cycle to assess and refine their heading by listening to vehicular trajectories, before crossing at the next pedestrian phase because they have to locate and push the button again (and re-establish their heading).
    2. At a location with little vehicular traffic, even if pedestrians who are blind know there is a pushbutton and use it, they may not be able to detect the onset of the walk interval if there is no through traffic on the street parallel to their crossing.
    3. Blind pedestrians may not be aware that there is a pushbutton and/or they may be unable to locate the pushbutton. In addition, some locations do not include a pedestrian phase, and at times when vehicular volume is low, there may not be enough time to cross the street.

    In the past twenty years, significant changes in intersection geometry, signalization, driver behavior, and the technology of automobiles have affected the ability of blind travelers in the United States to obtain the information they need to cross streets independently and safely. Traffic clearing the intersection also commonly overlaps the pedestrian phase by as many seconds as the duration of the walk interval. In such cases, blind pedestrians will first perceive the pedestrian phase, and initiate crossing, after the onset of the pedestrian change interval. These changes have increased the requests for APS by blind pedestrians. Municipalities and states need a documented procedure to respond to such requests as required by the program access requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Like road signs, traffic signals are designed to communicate important information about current or upcoming road conditions to motorists and pedestrians. They are also used to control the flow of traffic, telling drivers when they must stop, prepare to stop or proceed.

    1. Traffic lights for drivers
    2. Pedestrian signals
    3. Reversible lane control signals
    4. Railroad signals
    5. Drawbridge signals and signs

    You will encounter traffic lights:

    • At controlled intersections
    • At mid-block pedestrian crossings
    • Managing pedestrian traffic at busy crosswalks
    • At many railroad crossings
    • At drawbridges

    Traffic lights differ from printed road signs in that they do not remain the same. Instead, they can be switched on or off to suit changing situations on the roadway. Many signaling devices also have multiple settings with different meanings. As a budding motorist and road user, you must know how to interpret traffic lights when you encounter them in different situations.

    Traffic lights for drivers

    The first article in this section covers the most commonly encountered traffic lights, which manage traffic flow through controlled intersections or mid-block pedestrian crosswalks. Unless protected turn lanes are present at an intersection, each line of traffic should only have basic red, yellow and green traffic lights to contend with. Arrow signal lights indicate a lane reserved exclusively for turning, such as a center left-turn lane. We start our exploration of traffic lights by learning the meaning behind each of these traffic control signal lights. Plus, we discuss what to do if you encounter a malfunctioning or inoperative signal at an intersection.

    Mid-block pedestrian crosswalks are controlled by a unique type of signal known as hybrid beacons or “HAWK” signals. Unlike standard traffic lights at intersections, hybrid beacons remain inactive until a pedestrian activates a button on the sidewalk to indicate they wish to cross. “Traffic lights for Drivers” finishes up with a valuable step-by-step guide to interpreting hybrid beacons at mid-block pedestrian crossings.

    Pedestrian signals

    Signal lights that manage pedestrian traffic are often found at busy intersections. Electronic signs displaying “WALK”, “DON’T WALK” or symbols indicating these two actions are posted on crosswalks, to let pedestrians know when they have right-of-way and may safely cross the street. Of course, pedestrians must still cross with extreme caution, even when a “WALK” signal is active.

    Find out how to abide by pedestrian signals safely here. You will also discover useful information about different types of pedestrian crossing and the signals which typically accompany them. This includes “on-demand” crosswalks and “pedestrian scrambles”. Understanding pedestrian signals is vital. Remember, the moment you step out of your vehicle – you are a pedestrian too.

    Reversible lane control signals

    These signals are also aimed at drivers, though you will only find them on multi-lane streets where the lawful use of one or more lanes alters throughout the day. Modifying the direction or use of a lane can make it easier to manage heavy, changeable traffic conditions. Above these reversible lanes, signal lights are displayed on large horizontal boards which can be seen by drivers traveling in both directions. All motorists must know what different reversible lane control signals mean, to determine whether they may drive in that lane.

    Highway metering lights are another type of lane control signal which are only used on some limited-access highway entrance ramps. The color of the meter signal indicates whether drivers must wait at the end of the ramp or merge with highway traffic right away. Everything you need to know about metering lights and reversible lane control signals can be found in this section.

    Railroad signals

    Around 50 percent of railroad crossings on public roadways are managed by flashing red warning lights. Often, these signals are accompanied by an audio signal in the form of a warning bell and/or a safety gate that closes the crossing when trains are approaching.

    The message behind a flashing red light at a crossing is simple and clear: do not enter the crossing, a train is coming.

    Drivers MUST obey railroad signals and check for trains by looking down the track in both directions, even when an inactive signal indicates that it is safe to cross. The time difference between a signal light being activated and the train passing through the junction can vary wildly from one railroad crossing to the next. No matter how long you have been waiting at a crossing, do not seek to cross if:

    • A red warning light is active
    • A bell is sounding
    • A safety gate is closed or in the process of closing
    • A flagger indicates that a train is coming

    What happens if you encounter a railroad crossing without signal lights? Don’t worry, that essential safety information is covered in this article too!

    Drawbridge signals and signs

    Drawbridges are mechanical bridges operated by a person known as a “drawbridge tender”. These bridges carry motorists and pedestrians but can be opened to allow marine traffic to pass underneath. Drivers must be able to interpret the signs and signals used around drawbridges – which can pose a serious hazard to road users. The final article in this section discusses safe drawbridge use for motorists and pedestrians. Here, you will learn what each drawbridge signal means and get acquainted with some vital safety tips.