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A Vancouver Car Accident Lawyer Reports on a Curious Crosswalk Study

Jeffrey S. Witten, B.A., LL.B.
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Personal Injury Lawyer at McComb Witten Marcoux

Posted on Apr 30, 2013

A Vancouver pedestrian accident lawyer at McComb Witten recently read about a fascinating and counterintuitive new study about crosswalks published in a tier one academic journal.


Professor Arvind Magesan and his coauthor, Sacha Kapoor, analyzed Canadian crosswalk data over a period of five years. They found that countdown timers at city intersections lowered pedestrian collisions, but surprisingly, elevated the number of crashes between motor vehicles.

The team conducted their research in Toronto. When countdown timers were installed, the number of pedestrian crashes dropped by approximately five per month, but the number of vehicular crashes increased by more than 21 per month.

"If a road is really busy and it's slow-moving traffic, you can't really use a countdown to decide to drive faster to get through a light. In places like that, it seems to have a positive effect. It reduces the rates of accidents," Magesan said.

"But in places where a driver does have the opportunity to react to this thing—which they are not supposed to be reacting to in the first place—they use the information and accelerate," Magesan continued.

In other words, drivers look at the crosswalk, see the countdown sign, and then try to gun through the intersection before the light turns red.

Magesan boiled down the issue, “The whole problem here is that drivers can see these things…and they know how many seconds are left and they can speed up if they see fit.”

According to the Vancouver Sun, the implications of this study could really hit home, since our city has begun to install more and more of these countdown crosswalks.

The Sun interviewed Constable Brian Montague about the issue. He said that the police department has talked with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and city officials about this “unintended consequence.”  He did add, however, “I am unaware of any collisions that have occurred as a result of the countdown styled signals.”

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