Students' Crosswalk Safety Sign Being Considered for Intersections Around Maryland

PLTW students from Long Reach High School unveiled their uniquely designed crosswalk safety sign at the Howard County Engineering Design & Development (PLTW) Fair on Saturday, May 12, 2012, hoping for first place. Thirty teams from around the country submitted designs in the competition as their answer to a ‘real’ problem--all having identified a problem, done research, created a design solution, developed the design and produced an operational prototype before reaching the May 12 event. 

When the event was said and done, the Long Reach Team won first place and will share $2000 in scholarship money donated by Northrop Grumman for first place. A team from Howard High School took home 2nd place and will share $1200 in scholarship monies donated anonymously.

The Long Reach problem addressed pedestrians being hit by turning cars while the pedestrian would be crossing the road. Students focused on the intersection near their school for the prototype. The normal paradigm is that the pedestrian is primarily responsible for crossing when there are proper walk signals to do so, with a supporting role for the driver’s responsibility to follow the state law and stop for the pedestrian.

The Howard County Department of Public Works, Traffic Engineering Division assisted in guiding the team's research. The team found that 45% of accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians had significant correlation with the driver not yielding. Further investigation found that a driver stopped on the side street at a red light at a ‘T’ intersection is focused on checking the overhead light and looking for an opening in oncoming traffic flow from the left to allow them to ‘turn right on red.’ When sitting in the driver’s seat, the team observed that the driver’s focus on the light and the traffic flow potentially contributes to not noticing if a pedestrian would be entering the intersection from the right side of the car.

The team’s conclusion was that the design of a better sign placed overhead next to the traffic signal indication for the driver needed to be created to help increase the awareness of the presence of the pedestrian. The sign needed to be stronger than 'Yield'. The team designed a Pedestrian Detection Protection System with a new innovative sign for the intersection. The team's design has been submitted to start the process of gaining a copyright.

Diane Schwarzman, P.E., Chief, Traffic Engineering Division of the Howard County Department of Public Works stated: "We are hopeful that the PDPS sign, upon further testing, validation, and federal approval will become a tool that will be considered by traffic engineers at signalized intersections to reduce pedestrian vehicular conflicts."

The members of the team are Ming Ma, Karlis Grauze, Jayson Green and Sjonya Nicole Scott. All are going to college in pursuit of engineering or related degrees.

For additional information, contact Dr. Robert Hawthorne, the team teacher and sponsor at 410-313-7117 or at [email protected] or at [email protected]