Both pedestrians and drivers should have a safer crossing on Gallows Road at Aston Street in Annandale this week, as the Virginia Department of Transportation has installed new flashing beacons at the crosswalk.
Pedestrians push a button to activate, and bright, highly visible beacons flash in a fast pattern for about 25 seconds to alert drivers.
The new beacons are mounted on both sides of the road, so drivers approaching from either direction see the flash. Because the beacons are manually triggered, they only flash when there is a pedestrian, which is an important feature—when drivers see the beacons flashing, they can be sure a pedestrian is nearby.
Gallows Road is four lanes in this area and carries about 31,000 vehicles a day. The rapid-flashing beacons were a good solution for this location, said Randy Dittberner, VDOT’s regional traffic engineer, because this stretch of Gallows has no median where pedestrians can wait, and spans about a mile between signalized intersections.
It is important that pedestrians remember to activate the beacons, said Dittberner, and to continue to watch for oncoming traffic as they cross.
With the increased safety of the new beacons, additional people may be drawn to use the crossing. Research in other areas has shown these devices to be extremely effective at increasing driver yielding at crosswalks, said Dittberner.
These rapid-flashing beacons are among the first of their kind in northern Virginia, with a cost of about $20,000 at this location. Plans are also underway to install similar beacons at other sites, including on Belmont Ridge Road at the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail crossing in Loudoun County.