Impact of Crosswalk Lighting Improvements on Pedestrian Safety–A Literature Review
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Impact of Crosswalk Lighting Improvements on Pedestrian Safety–A Literature Review

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    January 2019 – November 2019
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    This study conducted a nationwide literature review to obtain the state of knowledge on the relationship between lighting conditions and pedestrian crashes, assessing how lighting countermeasures at crosswalks improve pedestrian safety. The study gathered information on crosswalk lighting treatments, existing national guidelines for lighting at pedestrian crossings, and safety effectiveness of pedestrian crosswalks lighting. Reducing pedestrian crashes remains a major challenge in the United States. Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise in the last 10 years, reaching approximately 6,000 fatalities in 2017, which accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities. Among these pedestrian fatalities, about 75 percent occurred in dark conditions. The high number of crashes during dark conditions advocates for prioritizing lighting countermeasures to improve crosswalks visibility and pedestrian safety. This literature review identified overhead lighting, in-road flashing lights, and bollard level lights as the most used crosswalk lighting treatments. For crosswalk lighting and the amount of light needed to detect pedestrians crossing during nighttime, transportation agencies should consider, wherever feasible, providing adequate lighting at pedestrian crossings, especially where nighttime pedestrian volumes are high. Existing national guidelines recommend the light source to be located at least 10 ft. in front of the crosswalks, a vertical illuminance of 20 lux measured at a height of 5 ft. above the road surface, and street lights to be placed on both sides of the roadway. The review revealed a small number of studies that investigated pedestrian safety with respect to crosswalk lighting. These studies were grouped in three categories: behavioral, modeling, and crash studies. The behavioral studies showed, in general, enhanced lighting at crosswalks led to an improvement in drivers’ awareness and yielding to pedestrians, an increase in pedestrian observational behavior, and an increase in the car stopping distance before crosswalks. The modeling studies showed that providing street lighting is associated with lower probabilities of pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries. Crash studies found that providing adequate lighting at intersections helps to reduce the frequency of nighttime crashes and increase safety. Although there is evidence that crosswalk lighting, especially intersection lighting, has a positive impact on nighttime crashes, it is the researchers’ conclusion that extensive before-after studies are needed to investigate the safety effects of crosswalks lighting on pedestrian crashes and visibility as well as to develop appropriate crash modification factors. A survey is also recommended to collect information from states or municipalities that may have implemented such countermeasures.
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