City to add more HAWK lights after record number of pedestrian deaths

Following a record number of pedestrian deaths in 2017, the city of Tucson is planning to add another 13 HAWK lights scattered around Tucson.

The city already has 133 of the pedestrian safety lights (High-Intensity Activated crossWalk beacon) but feels more of the $100,000 to $150,000 lights are necessary to protect motorists.

"The pedestrians are the most vulnerable users and need the most protection," said Andy McGovern, who is retiring after 22 years at ADOT. "If that implies a little more delay to motorists, then that's the way it has to be."

The biggest argument against the HAWK lights, is they disrupt or slow down traffic flow.

But without them, many motorists simply ignore the pedestrians.

"It's not safe," said Bruce Devins, a business owner at the corner of 1st Ave and Copper. "It's really not safe."

The intersection is slated for a HAWK light in the near future.

Right now, it's an unmarked crosswalk with no signage and neighborhoods on both sides of the street.

"Sometimes they run back, they have to run back because they can't get to the other side," he said. "No, the cars don't slow down."

On the South side of town at Ajo and Liberty, the same issue.

The crosswalk is marked, there are signs but many times motorists ignore them.

"You have to like, basically wave them down, tell them to stop to get them to stop," said Manuel Sanchez, who works at the Battery Outlet on the corner."We're always on edge because we hear the screech and we're like 'oh my God' because we know about the crosswalk."

Yvonne Solis, a native Tucsonan who has lived in the neighborhood her whole life said "it's about time.

"Nobody stops, period," she said. "I've seen a lot of accidents and pedestrians who got badly injured."

The fact some drivers stop and others don't creates other issues as well.

"I saw an accident here, 45 miles per hour, three cars deep," Sanchez said. "A sudden stop, just too sudden for three cars."

City engineers will continue to add HAWK lights because according to McGovern, they work.

"We've not had a single fatality where we've installed the lights," he said.

And points out only the most dangerous crosswalks are candidates for them.

A 2010 Transportation study shows the lights reduce traffic incidents by nearly 70%.

But McGovern also admits the issue can't be blamed solely on drivers or pedestrians. It's both who are at fault.

He suggests continued education and patience.

"Well, traffic flow is interrupted," he said. "But out philosophy at the Transportation Department is that's a necessary evil."

Sent from my iPad