Outreach and enforcement improve pedestrian safety near public transit stops

bus stopThe recent rise of pedestrian crashes represents a pronounced threat to public safety, particularly near public transit stops. In a new study focused on combating this problem, a U of M-led research team examined how a combination of community outreach and high-visibility enforcement campaigns led to increased pedestrian safety and driver yielding near public transit stops in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 

“Many factors have been linked to the recent increase in pedestrian crashes, such as higher pedestrian and vehicle volumes, proximity to bus stops, increased driver distraction, and other risky driving behaviors that result in poor yielding rates,” says lead researcher Nichole Morris, director of the HumanFIRST Laboratory at the U of M. “Reducing pedestrian crashes involves more than changes to roadways and crosswalks. It also means changing the cultural influences that tolerate dangerous driving behaviors.”

In this project, the researchers took a multifaceted approach to improving driver compliance with pedestrian yielding laws. The interdisciplinary team included Curtis Craig, a research associate in the HumanFIRST Lab; Ron Van Houten, a professor in Western Michigan University’s Department of Psychology; and David Mayou, a student in the U of M’s Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel. 

First, the researchers investigated whether the presence of a bus stop influences the likelihood that a driver will yield to pedestrians. The team also aimed to determine the relative risk of failure-to-yield events near bus stops.

“This step was important because pedestrian crossings near bus stops have been associated with a higher pedestrian crash risk, likely due to increased risk exposure along with psychological factors such as driver confusion as to whether the pedestrian intends to cross or is waiting for a bus,” Morris says.

Then, the research team evaluated the effect of high-visibility enforcement and community outreach on both transit bus and regular driver yielding behavior. In addition, the team examined the effectiveness of enforcement on multiple-threat passing rates.

“We saw that one particular risk factor of multi-lane roads were multiple-threat crashes, in which one vehicle stops or yields to the pedestrian and a vehicle in the same direction of travel passes in the next lane,” says Craig. “This may be particularly problematic at crosswalks near public transit stops with waiting buses.” 

Data for the study were collected by observing pedestrian crossings at 16 selected crosswalk sites in Saint Paul. First, data were collected to create a baseline measurement. Next, the Saint Paul Police Department conducted two waves of high-visibility enforcement at eight of the study sites, which coincided with a public outreach campaign. Additional pedestrian crossing data were continuously collected at the 16 study sites through the first and second waves of enforcement.

Results of the study showed the percentage of drivers who yielded to pedestrians was lower near bus stops, but that the enforcement and outreach campaign improved yielding and multiple-threat passing rates over time. In addition, public transit vehicles were significantly more likely to stop for pedestrians than other vehicles. Findings also indicate that high-visibility enforcement had a greater impact on the yielding rates of public transit vehicles, possibly because those drivers communicate the presence of enforcement efforts among themselves or hear about it from their employers.

The research was published in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board (Vol. 2673).


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