Delaware Officials Advocate for Pedestrian Safety with New Traffic Signals


State officials say 69 pedestrians and bicyclists have been injured here on Coastal Highway during the past three years between Lewes and Fenwick Island. Ten of them were killed. Image courtesy WGMD/Alan Henney.

Ten pedestrians or bicyclists have been killed on Coastal Highway between Lewes and Fenwick Island during the past three years and nearly 70 have been injured.  As a result, state and local officials met Tuesday morning in Dewey Beach to get out the word on the state’s latest pedestrian crossing device, the rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB).

RRFBs are specially equipped crosswalks that feature the familiar rectangular pedestrian crossing sign combined with yellow beacons that flash for one minute after pedestrians press the button.

A rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) at the crosswalk on Rodney Avenue in Dewey Beach. Image courtesy WGMD/Alan Henney.

Studies have shown nationally that these rapid flash beacons can increase motorist compliance by more than 40 percent, says C.R. McLeod, DelDOT’s community relations director.  “We are continuing to see far too many incidents happen here in our beach resort areas over the past several years,” he told reporters.

To help encourage motorists to stop for pedestrians, he said DelDOT has installed these rectangular rapid flashing beacons this past year in Dewey.  There are up to 50 of them operating throughout Delaware, he said.

Pedestrian safety is one of the things that keeps the new Dewey Beach town manager awake at night.  “We have been very lucky considering the number of people in town [with] 23,000 during the weekend,” Bill Zolper pointed out.  “My main concern is safety and security of our visitors and our citizens,” he added. 

One of the first projects he started when he took over as town manager in February was to sign a use agreement with DelDOT to erect the pedestrian crosswalk signs along the road to try and stop traffic for pedestrians.

Image courtesy WGMD/Alan Henney.

During a survey the previous week, MCpl. Gary Fournier, state police spokesman, says many people who were crossing in the crosswalks in Dewey did not know what RRFBs were and had never noticed the flashing lights.  Motorists also appeared to be unfamiliar with the new devices.  He said police saw numerous drivers continue through the crosswalks when the yellow beacon was flashing.  That would be a $25 fine for failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

“We saw numerous drivers continue on throughout the intersections with the lights flashing and that shows us that there is a lack of education not only with the pedestrians that are crossing but also the drivers that are continuing through when the lights are flashing,” says MCpl. Gary Fournier, Delaware State Police spokesman. Police are distributing safety materials to better inform pedestrains. Image courtesy WGMD/Alan Henney.

Cynthia Cavett from the Delaware Office of Highway Safety says the most common factor in the fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes was that they happened in the dark.  She urges pedestrians and bicyclists to increase their visibility as much as possible.