Rapid flashing beacons part of Malone project

Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons such as these on Park Street in Canton will soon be installed in Malone. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

Pedestrian fatalities and injuries have been increasing at an alarming pace in the United States for the past decade. However, Malone pedestrians stand to receive benefits from a pedestrian safety project along U.S. Route 11 in Malone this year. A new feature planned for the project will be “Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons” (RRFBs) at selected un-signalized crosswalks.

Installed on roadside poles, the RRFB remains dark until a pedestrian activates the system by pressing a pushbutton. Once the system is activated, rapidly flashing amber beacon lights provide a bright warning to motorists. The lights activate in a bright “wig wag” fashion, easily getting the attention of approaching motorists. The system also provides an additional flashing amber light indicating to the pedestrian that the beacon lights are flashing.

RRFBs are used at uncontrolled pedestrian and school crosswalk locations where a three-color signal light is not warranted. The purpose of the RRFB pedestrian crosswalk lights is to reinforce the pedestrian warning signs, which remind drivers of their obligation to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. RRFBs have shown to receive high rates of driver compliance, increasing pedestrian safety at relatively low costs.

The lights are amber in color, not red, and thus do not require all traffic to stop while flashing. Vehicle and traffic law (VTL), section 1151, requires motorists to “yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.” However, no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.

The existing overhead amber flashing beacons at the crosswalk at the intersection of West Main and Webster streets (at the YMCA) will be removed and replaced with RRFBs paired with a pedestrian refuge island.

The Malone pedestrian safety project will have additional safety features that will apply to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Some of these enhancements will be discussed in future “Did You Know” articles. Although this is a Malone project, these articles will review traffic laws that apply to everyone wherever they are located.

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