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  1. Opinion

Red lights instead of flashing yellows make sense for crosswalks | Editorial

A bill would end the confusion and save lives by making crosswalk signals red.
Vehicle traffic is seen along Bayshore Boulevard at a crosswalk at South Dakota Avenue in Tampa. Several intersections have pedestrian-activated beacons.
Vehicle traffic is seen along Bayshore Boulevard at a crosswalk at South Dakota Avenue in Tampa. Several intersections have pedestrian-activated beacons.
Published Jan. 17
Updated Jan. 17

Drivers know a red light means stop, so legislation that would require replacing flashing yellow lights with red lights at mid-block crosswalks is a smart safety measure that would save lives.

Walking along many streets in the Tampa Bay area can be dangerous, and the increasing installation of crosswalks with flashing yellow lights is well meaning but can be confusing, particularly at the middle of the block. Does a flashing yellow mean caution? Does it mean stop? The law actually is clear -- drivers must yield to pedestrians in a marked crosswalk regardless of whether there is a yellow light flashing or no light at all. But the finer points of the rules of the road won’t save pedestrians in the same way that a solid red light would.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, has introduced HB 1371, the so-called “Turn the Flashing Yellow Crosswalks Red” bill. Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, filed the companion bill, SB 1000. The legislation would give cities and counties until 2024 to swap yellow flashes out for red lights or to entirely remove flashing yellow light signals at mid-block crosswalks.

In Hillsborough, 311 pedestrians were hit just in the first half of last year, and 33 were killed. In Pinellas, 283 pedestrians were hit, with 20 killed. Of course, not all of those who were hit were in crosswalks, but this points to the danger of simply walking in the Tampa Bay area. In fact, in St. Petersburg last year a person was nearly as likely to be run over and killed as murdered (17 homicides vs. 14 pedestrian fatalities).

Red lights at mid-block crosswalks would stop confusion and improve pedestrian safety. There may be confusion over yellow lights, but there would be no doubt that red means stop.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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