TONAWANDA, N.Y.(WIVB) – A new traffic control signal in the Town of Tonawanda went online Friday morning.
It’s called HAWK. It stands for “High-intensity Activated crosswalk.”
It’s designed to make it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross the street. Studies also show it reduces the number of pedestrian and severe crashes.
The HAWK is located on Sheridan Drive near the old railroad crossing in the Town of Tonawanda. It’s near Belmont Avenue.
It’s the first one if its kind on a state road in New York.
Here’s how it works: If a pedestrian or cyclist needs to cross the six-lane road they can press the crosswalk button. That activates the signal. Then it will flash a yellow light, prompting drivers to slow down. Then it will turn solid yellow, then solid red. Once drivers have the red light, they have to come to a complete stop, so pedestrians and cyclists can cross the road. After they’ve safely made it to the other side, drivers will see flashing red lights. At that time, drivers can proceed with caution.
That’s where many drivers get confused. Elizabeth Cary, the public affairs manager at AAA of western and central New York said drivers don’t know if they should go because there’s no green light.
“We think it’s a great idea for pedestrians who need to cross this busy stretch of Sheridan. Six lanes are not easy to get across walking or on a bicycle. At the same time, it’s going to be a learning curve for drivers who aren’t used to this. It’s not at a regular intersection, it’s mid-section,” Cary said.
Cary believes the HAWK signal will take some time for drivers to get used to.
Town of Tonawanda Police Captain Joseph Carosi said officers understand this and will work with people.
“Regardless of where you see it, red means stop. The potential is there to be ticketed for failing to stop at a red light. Right off the bat, are we going to be ticketing people? The circumstances are going to play a lot into that,” Carosi said.
Pedestrians and cyclists told News 4 that before the light, crossing one of the busiest roads in the Erie County was very difficult.
“It’s tough to make a left out of here, let alone cross the road,” Jeff Gramlich of Buffalo said.
“It just wasn’t safe,” said Reed Stevens of Buffalo.
Some people are also worried about crossing with the new traffic signal. Their concerned drivers won’t stop. “Distracted driving is a problem. I think it would have been better if there was a bridge that went over this road,” Gramlich said.
Others think the new Hawk signal will help. “This is bike-friendly.” Doug Hopkins of Buffalo said. “It makes us feel safer.”
A study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the HAWK signal in Tucson, Arizona. It found that pedestrian crashes were reduced by 69 percent. There was also a 15 percent reduction in severe crashes.