Are Marked Crosswalks Safer?

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The City of Santa Clarita receives many requests each month regarding the application of various traffic-control devices to address traffic safety issues throughout the City.

These issues include crosswalks, stop signs, warning signs, traffic signals, pedestrian signals, and special signing near schools.

WHAT IS A CROSSWALK?

Unless prohibited by signs, a crosswalk is the portion of a roadway at an intersection that is the extension of the sidewalk and curb lines of the intersecting streets, or is any other portion of a roadway marked as a pedestrian crossing by painted lines. Crosswalks are either "marked" or "unmarked." A "marked" crosswalk is delineated by white- or yellow-painted markings placed on the pavement. The majority of the City's crosswalks are unmarked. However, some of the crosswalks at signalized and stop-controlled intersections, and selected ones near schools are "marked."

HOW ARE CROSSWALKS USED?

Drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at all marked or unmarked crosswalks. Crosswalks are marked mainly to encourage pedestrians to use a particular crossing. Studies conducted on crosswalk safety support minimal installation of marked crosswalks.

The City of San Diego's study results for both marked and unmarked crosswalks were surprising. Although 2-1/2 times as many people used the marked crosswalks, 6 times as many accidents occurred. A pedestrian safety study in Long Beach reported 8 times as many accidents in marked crosswalks. Similar studies in other cities have confirmed these results.

WHERE ARE CROSSWALKS NORMALLY MARKED?

Crosswalks are marked at intersections where there is substantial conflict between vehicle and pedestrian movements, where significant pedestrian concentration occurs, where pedestrians could not otherwise recognize the proper place to cross, and where traffic movements are controlled. Examples include:

  • Approved school crossings.
  • Signalized and four-way intersections.
  • All-way stop controlled intersections where there is significant pedestrian traffic and one or more crossing locations have been prohibited.

WHAT CAUSES ACCIDENTS AT MARKED CROSSWALKS?

Research studies suggest that marked crosswalks give pedestrians a wrong message and consequently decrease their safety. Pedestrians often step off the curb into the crosswalk assuming that approaching drivers will stop. The crosswalk markings, however, may not always be readily apparent to drivers from a safe stopping distance. As a result, drivers frequently are unable to or fail to stop, causing an accident. Although drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at crosswalks, it is the pedestrian's responsibility to be cautious and alert before crossing the street.

At mid-block crosswalks on multi-lane roadways, accidents frequently occur when a driver in the lane nearest to the curb stops for a pedestrian who is waiting or already in the crosswalk. The driver of a second vehicle in the next lane tries to pass and hits the pedestrian. Although it is illegal for drivers to pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk, pedestrians should be very cautious, especially when their visibility is limited. The City of Santa Clarita does not paint crosswalks at mid block locations where traffic is not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals. In general, crosswalks should be viewed as channelization devices rather than safety devices. They should not be marked at intersections unless they are deemed necessary to channelize and direct pedestrians along the safest route.

Crosswalks should be marked at all intersections that are near schools on the "suggested school routes" where there is substantial conflict between vehicles and students. Teaching school-age children how and where to safely cross the street is the most dependable safety measure.

Suggested Safety Tips:

  • Hold small children by the hand when crossing.
  • Look both ways before crossing any street.
  • Make sure all traffic stops before entering the roadway.
  • Establish eye contact with drivers when possible.
  • Do not step out in front of approaching cars until you know they see you and come to a stop.
  • Stay on the curb while waiting for a gap in traffic.
  • Always cross at intersections.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, REQUESTS, OR SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING TRAFFIC SAFETY MATTERS, PLEASE CONTACT THE TRAFFIC ENGINEERING DIVISION AT (661) 255-4942