Active-looking pedestrian signs could lead to fewer fatal accidents, BYU study shows

Posted at 10:56 PM, Feb 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-24 00:56:05-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Last year, 37 people died in auto-pedestrian accidents in Utah.

“Pedestrian safety is a major concern. Already this year we’ve had eight pedestrians that have been killed on Utah roadways that’s 31 percent of our traffic fatalities,” said John Gleason, spokesman for Utah Department of Transportation.

New research from Brigham Young University shows if pedestrian signs change to show faster-moving objects on the signs it could lead to fewer deaths.

"When you're driving in a car and you have a traffic sign on the side of the road and it looks like it's moving it captures you're attention more quickly and then ultimately is what that means is you're in a heightened state of vigilance and you react more quickly to that sign,” said Ryan Elder, BYU assistant professor of Marketing.

Elder said signs that look like they're moving catch a driver's attention faster than a traditional sign. That could result in drivers hitting the breaks faster when someone steps into their way.

“On average it was about 50 milliseconds, which doesn't seem like a lot of time, but if you're going 60 mph that's about 4.4 feet, which could mean the big difference between hitting someone and being able to stop just in time,” Elder said.

UDOT has no plans to get the signs but wants to remind drivers and those crossing to pay attention at crosswalks.

“Make sure if you're at a cross walk don't assume that you have the right of way. Try to make eye contact with the people that are driving and make sure they know you are there and that you're about to cross the road,” Gleason said.