New system aims to make crossing the road safer

Atlanta is ushering in a new team of HAWKs.

No, not the basketball team, but a system to improve on the way pedestrians cross the street.

HAWKS – high-intensity activated crosswalks – were demonstrated Wednesday along Buford Highway by the Department of Transportation and the pedestrian safety group PEDS.

Four “pedestrian islands” were installed along the highway between Clairmont Road and I-285 to make crossing the road safer in the middle of the block, away from the normal crosswalks.

“They’re designed to allow pedestrians to cross the intersection much safer,” DOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said Wednesday.

DOT workers have installed two signal buttons for pedestrians to press as they are crossing the street.

There is a 30-second delay after the button is pushed to give cars time to slow down and stop. Once cars stop, pedestrians can cross to the center of the road, press the signal button for the direction they are traveling and proceed across the street.

“One reason pedestrians are not used to this is for years they had to look for a safe gap to cross,” said Sally Flocks, president and CEO of PEDS.

The system was first used in Arizona and has since spread to other states, including, Delaware and Oregon. The each HAWK device costs $120,000 to install.

Buford Highway, one of the busiest roadways in Atlanta, is the most dangerous road for pedestrians in the city, according to Flocks.

Flocks said 12 percent of traffic fatalities involve pedestrians. Of that amount, 25 percent of the accidents occur near bus stops, she said.

Another HAWK system will be set up along Candler Road in two weeks, McKinnon said.