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Flashing pedestrian crossings confuse walkers and drivers

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 28, 2019

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — You’ve seen them across Tampa Bay, and you probably drive past them every time you go to work. Yet, those rectangular flashing beacons, better known as flashing yellow pedestrian crossings, are confusing a lot of drivers.

The confusion is so widespread that Pinellas County recently put together a PSA video to show people how they work.

The biggest questions the county gets: When should I stop? What if it's blinking but nobody is in the crosswalk? Why don't cars stop when I press the button?

It’s not just walkers and drivers confused, but even Pinellas County deputies. Recently, Maria Loder, the owner of Crabby Bills Seafood in Indian Rocks Beach, got a warning from a deputy for driving through a crosswalk while the beacons were still flashing, even though the walker had already crossed the street.

“The deputy asked me 'Do you know what you did wrong? And I was like 'no.' I was extremely confused," Loder said.

Turns out the deputy was mistaken. Forward Pinellas, a transportation advocacy group, says as long as a walker is no longer in the intersection, drivers can proceed.

"I see it all day long. I'm not the only one confused," Loder added.

Pinellas County leaders are working to get people to understand how the flashing beacons work as they prepare to roll out 10-15 more across the county.

Here’s what county leaders want you to know.

For drivers:

• You must stop when the light is flashing and a pedestrian is crossing.

• You don’t have to stay stopped the entire time the light is flashing, only when someone is actually crossing the street. That's why the signals use an amber light, signaling caution, as opposed to a red light.

• Once the person or bike clears through the side of traffic you’re on, and they’re on the other side of the median, you can go.

For pedestrians:

• Make sure to push the button. Forward Pinellas says that’s the biggest challenge: Walkers still don’t push the button even though the flashing light is what helps drivers realize there is someone about to cross.

• Take a defensive approach. Scan the road to make sure vehicles are yielding before attempting to cross the street.

• Always make eye contact with the driver before crossing.