Satyam Goyal, right, created two smart crosswalk signs for intersections in his hometown of Fremont, Calif. (Satyam Goyal)

Opinion

Column: Pedestrian safety: Making crosswalks safer

To increase crosswalk safety for pedestrians, I am promoting traffic safety awareness and smart signs at uncontrolled intersections for my Eagle Scout Service Project.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/satyamgoyal0/" target="_self">Satyam Goyal</a>

Satyam Goyal

February 1, 2022

Traffic accidents were at a historic low in 2009, but afterward, there was a spike and the number of deaths increased by 35% in the next 10 years.

As I became aware of this problem, I started to research a solution to increase pedestrian safety. With the help of my Boy Scout troop, I created two smart crosswalk signs for intersections in my hometown. Additionally, I organized a safety campaign to educate drivers and pedestrians on safety rules. In the future, I plan to implement devices across hundreds of crosswalks around schools.

In 2017, nearly 6,000 pedestrians died in traffic accidents across the United States. This was a 25-year high, the Governors Highway Safety Association said, according to NPR.

“Distractions are the number three cause [of pedestrian fatalities], particularly by electronic devices,” Melody Geraci, deputy executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, told NPR in 2018.

However, it isn’t always just the motorists who are at fault. One study in Florida in 2005 found that in a sample of 7,000 pedestrian-vehicle accidents, pedestrians were at fault 80% of the time. This “unsafe pedestrian behavior” ranges from jaywalking to misuse of crossing devices, according to research by Arizona State University.

To understand more, I spoke with crossing guards at my local elementary school, Ardenwood Elementary.

Crossing guards at Ardenwood said motorists either don’t know the rules or need to be reminded. Ultimately, crossing guards have to physically step into the street and put themselves in danger.

Overall, I realized to make crosswalks safe for pedestrians around communities, there are two things required: 1. increasing awareness about traffic safety and 2. by implementing a smart sign at uncontrolled crosswalks intersections in the communities. The smart sign is an inexpensive and safer way to alert motorists of pedestrians in the crosswalk.

What is the smart sign?

The smart crosswalk sign is a device with powerful LEDs that are placed on top of the state law sign in the middle of the crosswalk. The state law sign is a federally mandated sign that many crosswalks in Fremont and Newark already have; this device is simply put on top of the sign.

Additional to the device are two buttons placed on both entrances of the crosswalk. When the button is pressed, the lights will flash for a predetermined time and then stop. This is very similar to the flashing beacons that the city installs on the side of the crosswalk. However, those can cost up to $50,000 each. The device I have built will cost at most $500. The button and light are connected using RF technology, and so they have a great range and don’t work based on line of sight. The lights used in the device are meant to be used for traffic control and alerting motorists.

My future goal is to automate the smart sign using AI and computer vision. I am also talking to Fremont and Newark city for the possibility of implementing the sign solution to many uncontrolled intersections.

Awareness campaign

Through a campaign, presentation, and Back to School Night event, I created awareness about traffic safety in the Ardenwood community.

I did this in the past for Ardenwood Elementary School in Fremont, Calif. by leading a group of Boy Scouts to advocate for traffic safety. After designing safety slogans to display around campus, we were invited to speak to parents about our mission.

Read more at my website here.

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