Teaching street crossing at streets and lanes where there is no traffic control
Approved by O&M Division membership through mail ballot, Spring 2008
At crosswalks in streets or lanes where vehicles are not controlled by a signal or stop sign (with no traffic control), pedestrians can either cross by relying on drivers to yield, or cross when there is a gap in traffic long enough to allow time to cross. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) programs must prepare consumers who are blind or visually impaired to cross at these crosswalks by ensuring that they have the information, strategies, and skills necessary to assess these situations. These include maximizing their detection / assessment of approaching vehicles, being able to determine whether they can recognize gaps in traffic that are long enough to cross and determine the level of risk for crossing (including the likelihood that vehicles that they didn't detect when they started their crossing could reach them and the likelihood that these drivers will yield to them), and make informed decisions concerning the crossing.
Traditional O&M techniques for crossing at streets with no traffic control (Allen, Barbier, Griffith, Kern, & Shaw, 1997; Hill & Ponder, 1976; Jacobson, 1993; LaGrow & Weessies, 1994) have relied on the ability of pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired and have normal hearing to be able to hear approaching vehicles well enough when it is quiet to be assured that, whenever it is quiet and they hear no approaching vehicles, there is a sufficient gap in traffic. Although this strategy of crossing when quiet still is reliable in some situations, research and observations indicate there are situations where it is not possible for a person with normal hearing and walking speed to hear traffic with sufficient warning to be assured that there is a gap in traffic long enough to cross even when it is quiet (Wall Emerson & Sauerburger, 2008, Sauerburger, 1989, 1995, 1999, 2006, Snook-Hill and Sauerburger 1996).
Relying on drivers to yield carries some risk as a strategy, as motorists have been found to vary from 17% to 97% in their yielding behavior, depending on factors such as the speed of vehicles, the visibility of pedestrians, number of lanes, pedestrian behavior, presence of a long white cane, and crossing treatments present (crosswalk style, warning flashers, etc). (Geruschat & Hassan, 2005; Fitzpatrick, Turner, Brewer, Carlson, Ullman, Trout, Park, Whitacre, Lalani, & Lord, 2006).
Specifically, one goal of O&M programs is that consumers will have information about crossings with no traffic control, including an understanding of the following:
the fact that, although it is possible to hear or see vehicles well enough in some situations to know it is clear to cross, there are other situations in which it is not possible to determine with certainty that there is a gap in traffic long enough to cross, even when it is quiet and no approaching traffic is visible/audible;
the time they need to cross streets of various widths, taking into consideration their walking pace;
the effects of masking sounds or various lighting/visual conditions on their ability to hear or see approaching traffic;
the pedestrian and white cane laws regarding right-of-way;
the likelihood that drivers of approaching vehicles will yield or avoid hitting them, including:
visibility factors and the ability of drivers to see the pedestrian from a safe distance, given the drivers' need for perception/braking time;
the volume and speed of traffic;
the effect of various road conditions on drivers' ability to yield;
information about the yielding behavior of drivers in the consumers' area;
information about the existence of bad drivers, such as those who are distracted or driving under the influence, etc.
alternatives to crossing streets independently.
In addition, among the goals of O&M instruction are that consumers will have the following:
strategies to maximize their detection of approaching vehicles by audition and/or vision, including an awareness of when it is appropriate to use which strategy;
strategies that enable them to assess their ability to detect vehicles including being able to:
analyze the width of the street and determine the time needed for crossing, taking into consideration their walking pace;
recognize situations where they cannot hear or see well enough to reliably predict gaps in traffic;
determine the probability that a vehicle that was undetected at the beginning of the crossing could reach them before the crossing is finished;
techniques for those with sufficient functional vision to
scan / glance efficiently in both or all directions to determine if there are approaching vehicles;
determine if approaching vehicles will allow enough time to complete a crossing;
strategies to determine any alternatives that may exist for crossing streets independently, and implement them;
strategies for advocating for features of accessibility and pedestrian safety as needed, such as traffic calming features, traffic control, bulbouts, and refuge islands to narrow the crosswalk, or other intersection and environmental modifications.
Allen, W., Courtney-Barbier, A., Griffith, A., Kern, T., & Shaw, C. (1997). Orientation and mobility teaching manual (2nd ed.). New York: CIL Publications.
Fitzpatrick, K., Turner, S., Brewer, M., Carlson, P., Ullman, B., Trout, N., Park, E., Whitacre, J., Lalani, N., & Lord, D. (2006) TCRP Report 112/NCHRP Report 562 - Improving Pedestrian Safety at Unsignalized Crossings. Transit Cooperative Research Program and National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Washington, D.C.: Transportation Research Board.
Geruschat, D. R. & Hassan, S.E. (2005) Driver behavior in yielding to sighted and blind pedestrians at roundabouts. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 99(5), 286-302.
Hill, E. W., & Ponder, P. (1976). Orientation and mobility techniques: A guide for the practitioner. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Jacobson, W.H. (1993). The art and science of teaching orientation and mobility to persons with visual impairments. New York, NY, AFB Press
LaGrow, S. J., & Weessies, M. J. (1994). Orientation and mobility: Techniques for independence. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.
Sauerburger, D. (2006). Instructional strategies for teaching judgment in detecting gaps for crossing streets with no traffic controls, RE:view, 37(4), 177-188.
Sauerburger, D. (1999). Developing criteria and judgment of safety for crossing streets with gaps in traffic. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 93(7), 447-450.
Sauerburger, D. (1995). Safety awareness for crossing streets with no traffic control. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 89(5), 423-431
Sauerburger, D. (1989). To cross or not to cross: Objective timing methods of assessing street crossings without traffic controls. RE:view, Fall 1989, 153-161.
Snook-Hill, M. & Sauerburger, D. (1996). Teaching students to assess safety for crossing streets which have no traffic control. in Proceedings of International Mobility Conference VIII, Tambartun National Resource Centre, Melhus, Norway, 535-540.
Wall Emerson, R. & Sauerburger, D. (2008). Detecting approaching vehicles at streets with no traffic control. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 102(12), 747-760.