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NEW HYBRID BEACON: Georgia College unveils second crosswalk signal

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    The new controlled pedestrian crossing is located on West Montgomery Street. TIMBERLY SPIKES/Staff

After several pedestrian accidents, Georgia College has unveiled a new crosswalk installation on one of its busiest crosswalks. The new crosswalk was activated earlier this month.

The system is known as HAWK – or the high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon – and is located on West Montgomery Street. Earlier this year, the college unveiled a similar system on Hancock Street. Before the update, the crosswalks were standalone sites with no sign or lighting.

“We worked with the Department of Transportation, and this system was planned by the department and funded by Georgia College,” said Brett Stanelle, GC Chief of Police. “This system is not tied in with the traffic light like other intersections.”

The HAWK crosswalk uses illuminated signage to control the flow of traffic while pedestrians cross. When not in use, the hybrid system keeps traffic flowing until someone presses the button. That means that traffic lights connected to the crosswalk will remain in a dark display when not in use. Once activated, the traffic lights will flash yellow, warning motorists that a pedestrian is preparing to cross. When the light is flashing red, motorists may proceed after yielding to remaining pedestrians.

Stanelle warns that crosswalk systems like these require pedestrians and drivers to work together to ensure everyone’s safety.

“It’s a two-way street,” the chief said. “For pedestrians, they have to press the button. These features are designed to keep everyone safe, and they work best when utilized as designed. For drivers, it’s a matter of being aware of your surroundings. It is all of our responsibility on the roadways and sidewalks to ensure we are operating safely.”

The HAWK isn’t the only safety measure added to the college. In January, the “pedestrian scramble” was unveiled. At this specialized crosswalk, traffic comes to a complete halt from both directions when activated.

“The face of our traffic and pedestrian safety control has changed over the last year. Many of these processes started when things were suspended for COVID safety,” Stanelle said.

The college, along with the GDOT, began making safer intersections at Georgia College after a student started a pedestrian safety petition after a woman was hit near the college. Since 2019, there have been five recorded accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles near the college. One incident in January of 2019 involved a Georgia Military College student being fatally struck by a GC bus.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the HAWK crosswalk system can reduce vehicle and pedestrian crashes by 69%.