NewsOperation Safe Roads


How HAWK beacons save pedestrians' lives

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 12:31:02-04

PHOENIX — Phoenix has been one of the worst cities in the nation for car-pedestrian accidents, but the fatality numbers are dropping as the city adds signaled crosswalks called HAWKs.

The HAWK beacon on 35th Avenue, just north of Indian School Road, brings traffic to a halt. A red light flashes as pedestrians safely cross mid-block to transfer buses or run to the convenience store.

The City Of Phoenix has installed 66 HAWK lights like this in recent years.

"These particular pieces of infrastructure have what we call a crash reduction factor of 60%," said Mailen Pankiewicz from Phoenix's Office of Pedestrian Safety. "They always reduce crashes at the locations where we place them."

The City of Phoenix expedited the installation of the 35th Avenue crosswalk three years ago after ABC15 reported on several pedestrian deaths in the roadway in 2018. Three people were killed on this short stretch in three separate pedestrian crashes in just over one month's time.

"We saw what we call a crash pattern," said Pankiewicz. "Since the signal has been installed at this location, we have not had any fatalities or serious injuries."

According to a 2018 City of Phoenix report, only 3% of crashes citywide involved pedestrians, but they resulted in 50% of the overall deaths.

As more HAWKS are installed, Phoenix is reporting fewer pedestrian crash deaths, from 104 fatalities in 2018, to 72 fatalities in 2019, to 69 fatalities in 2020.

The ABC15 Investigators saw there were still some jaywalkers dodging cars in six lanes of traffic even though they could have used the signaled walkway just a few feet away. City officials made changes to try to address the non-users.

"We even made it as easy as re-timing all of our HAWK signals, so they come on the moment that the button is pushed, and [pedestrians] don't have to wait for the signal to activate," said Pankiewicz.

There are more road safety features coming to 35th Avenue from Camelback Road to I-10. With the help of a $17.5-million federal grant, Phoenix plans to start work next year on three new pedestrian-activated signals, raised medians, LED street lighting, and rebuilding signals to modern standards.