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Is That a Hawk?

I saw something recently that I had not seen before. There is a crosswalk I pass every day on the way to work at an intersection with no traffic light. The roadway has a speed limit of 40 miles per hour, so it wasn’t the safest place to cross, but there was a crosswalk nonetheless.

Recently, the County added the strangest looking traffic control device I had ever seen. The signal sits dark unless activated, after which, there are two horizontal red lights that sit over a single yellow light. There is no green signal. It was so strange looking that I decided to do a little bit of research. The signal is not addressed in the Maryland driver’s manual, however, I checked the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and adopted by the State of Maryland, and there it was.

The funny looking traffic control device was a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, also called a HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK). The acronym might be a bit of a stretch.

The signal remains dark until a pedestrian activates the beacon (hits the walk button). After it is activated, the sequence is as follows: flashing yellow, steady yellow, dual steady rad, alternative flashing red, and then dark again. I reviewed several studies, and it appears to be very effective in protecting pedestrians in locations that do warrant full traffic signals.

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