New blinking pedestrian crossings confuse some drivers

Many drivers confused about changing signal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Near 46th and Main stands one of Kansas City’s newest traffic control devices. The city calls it a “pedestrian hybrid beacon,” but Joy Smith, whose home is in the area, calls it confusing.

“It’s because people don’t know what they’re supposed to do,” Smith said.

Smith walks her dogs every day and uses the pedestrian crossing near Café Trio to get across to Mill Creek Park. The device, approved by the Department of Transportation in 2009, blinks yellow and then turns a solid yellow before turning a solid red. After staying red for a few minutes, the light blinks red before shutting off entirely.

There’s also a sign above the intersection that reads: Stop on red.

Each day Smith becomes more frustrated at drivers who don’t stop at the light or proceed through the blinking light. She believes everyone is confused about what the change in the lights means.

“A lot of the times you barely clear the intersection, and cars are running the red light,” Smith said.

While our cameras watched the intersection, we saw many drivers fly through the red light.

“I come down here every day, and it's the same thing over and over,” William Short said just after he watched an SUV fly through the intersection as he was trying to cross.

Both Short and Smith agree the real confusion begins when the light changes from solid red to blinking red.

We observed some drivers stop the entire time the light was blinking until it shut off entirely.

Others stopped at the intersection, checked for pedestrians, then proceeded through the intersection.

When we approached Kansas City, Mo., Public Works to find out who was right, we found out it was confusing for them as well.

Spokesman Sean Demory initially told us drivers were required to stop the entire time the light appeared red, even when it was blinking.

However, after our interview, he called us back conceding he was wrong.

The correct answer: Treat the blinking red light as a stop sign. Check the intersection for pedestrians, then proceed.

The lights are so new this information isn’t in the Missouri DMV’s Drivers Education Guide.

“This is the same as when traffic circles came to Kansas City. There is a learning curve,” Demory said.

Demory said the city believes the crossings are working and have reduced accidents in the area.

Kansas City Police told 41 Action News they have not issued any tickets in that area. However, starting Thursday, Demory said the city does plan to step up enforcement in the area to make sure drivers are clear about what they are supposed to do at these intersections.

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