|October 23, 2002|
As a citizen of the United States of America who happens to be visually impaired I am strongly in support of audible traffic signals being installed in heavily traveled intersections which are dangerous even for the sighted pedestrians. The first time I encountered an audible traffic signal was when I arrived on the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1962. As I was learning my way around the campus and the town I kept hearing this bell ringing at regular intervals. When I reached the corner of seventh and Philadelphia streets I was amazed to discover that this bell rang when all traffic stopped which allowed me to cross with complete safety. During my four years there I depended on that signal which was wisely placed at the most dangerous intersection in down town Indiana. To my knowledge no one ever complained about the noise it produced. That was the only cross walk in town with such a signal. No other intersection in the business district really needed another signal. I would not be in favor of these signals at every intersection in even the largest communities. Technology has come a long way from the bell signal in Indiana. Several manufacturers can produce signals which operate only when a blind person or anyone else who wishes to use it activates it. Most emphasis has been placed on improving the flow of vehicular traffic and little on pedestrian safety. In years past blind persons could cross streets more safely because traffic lights cycled in a predictable manner. Now, however, with programmability signals can be set to operate in many different ways to accommodate traffic flow. These intersections are particularly hazardous to those who don't have the advantage of seeing the change of the light and who can use their sight to monitor the flow of traffic. I believe it is time for the PROWAC report to be given the consideration it deserves and that the right thing should be done. Other countries like Australia have already made significant progress in this area and we should follow their lead.
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