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Seattle Plans To Reprogram Traffic 'Walk' Signals In Effort To Save Lives

Parker Miles Blohm
A vehicle drives over a crosswalk at 4th and Vine Street on Tuesday March 21, after the morning commute. The reprogramed lights would give pedestrians a jumpstart on crossing the street before vehicles.

Seattle says it has a plan to reduce pedestrian traffic fatalities by half. It involves a minor tweak to the traffic lights

When you’re on foot in Seattle, it can be a little nerve wracking crossing the street at a traffic signal. Just as the walk sign comes on, the green light for cars goes on as well. If a car is turning, you just hope it sees you.

But Scott Kubly, Seattle Department of Transportation director, says, as part of the city’s pedestrian master plan, those walk lights are going to be reprogrammed so that the walk sign comes on first.

“The person walks out, they get a few seconds head start and then the cars that are turning on the green can go and the pedestrian is much more visible and so they are safer,” Kubly said at a news conference at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in south Seattle.

Kubly says, where the walk signals have been reprogrammed in other cities, it’s reduced serious crashes by 50 percent.  Kubly says the city also plans to paint stop bars at all intersections. Stop bars are white lines that indicate where cars should stop to make sure pedestrians in the crosswalk have enough room to get by.  These and other initiatives are part of Seattle's Pedestrian Master Plan, part of the city's effort to end traffic deaths by 2030.

Kubly says in the past five years in Seattle, there have been 50 serious fatal crashes at intersections.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.