An example of a HAWK pedestrian crossing signal via Federal Highway Administration

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner is asking state lawmakers to pursue a change in Maryland’s road regulations to allow the installation of pedestrian-activated HAWK signals at popular crosswalks.

In a letter sent to the county’s state legislative delegation Wednesday, Berliner wrote that the signals have the potential to significantly reduce pedestrian and vehicle collisions at heavily-used crosswalks that don’t have a standard traffic signal.

He notes that a July 2010 study by the Federal Highway Administration found that HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk) signals reduced vehicle and pedestrian collisions by 69 percent.

Most of the time HAWK signals remain dark to allow traffic to pass through them, but when a pedestrian hits a button to cross a road, the signals flash yellow for a few seconds, then turn solid yellow to indicate drivers should prepare to stop and finally turn a solid double red requiring drivers to stop so the pedestrian can cross. The signals hang above roadways so cars can clearly see them.

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Berliner contrasted a Kansas study that found 97 percent of drivers complied with HAWK signals with a Washington, D.C. study that found only 25 percent of drivers stop at crosswalks without traffic signals.

The council member wrote that state regulations do not permit the use of hybrid traffic beacons. He asked lawmakers to attempt to change that language during the 2017 General Assembly, which starts in January. The signals are used at some crosswalks in D.C.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t be using these signals at popular non-signalized crosswalks across Old Georgetown Road, Wisconsin Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue and others,” Berliner wrote.

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Berliner’s letter comes after a series of pedestrian and cyclist collisions with vehicles on Montgomery County roads—with two pedestrians and a cyclist dying after collisions in October.

HAWK Signal to Delegation by AJ Metcalf on Scribd