D.C. uses solutions to prevent green arrow crashes

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – While pedestrian fatalities in the District fell to a record low in 2012, one particular type of turn continues to lead to several serious crashes.

The D.C. Department of Transportation is concerned about drivers who hit pedestrians while turning with a green arrow.

“It’s a major issue for us,” says DDOT Chief Traffic Engineer James Cheeks. “We look at that very seriously as we re-time our traffic signals.”

DDOT’s Pedestrian Program Coordinator George Branyan says these accidents comprise about a third of all pedestrian crashes, making it the single biggest group of crashes.

“Sometimes drivers are shooting a gap and they’re not thinking about the crosswalk. So when they get a hole, they gun it. It’s part of driving in this city, but drivers need to be more aware of pedestrians,” Branyan says.

To address the high crash rate, D.C. implemented a few resolutions.

Currently, DDOT uses a “Barnes Dance” at 7th Street and H Street N.W., which allows pedestrians to cross in every direction at the same time while cars on all four sides of the intersection are red. This pattern was applied in 2010.

DDOT is also rolling out “leading pedestrian intervals.”

“At a typical intersection, pedestrians start to walk at the same time a certain light turns green,” Cheeks explains. “But here, we’ll allow a pedestrian to start the walk across the crosswalk, hold the cars, so as he (the driver) makes his turn, he will see the pedestrian in the crosswalk.”

Leading pedestrian intervals are already in place at 14th Street and U Street N.W., which had nine crashes involving a cyclist and seven more involving pedestrians between 2010 and March 2012, according to a recent DDOT study.

U Street is in the middle of a year-long improvement project to widen sidewalks, repave the street and upgrade traffic signals. The first phase of the ongoing construction at 14th and U is scheduled to wrap up this spring.

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