Pedestrian Crashes Are Up in Wisconsin: What Drivers, Walkers Need to Know

By Salina Heller

September 14, 2023

Plus–one city’s flashy solution to fix it.

Many Wisconsin communities are extremely walker-friendly. But the state Highway Safety Association is issuing a warning: the number of car-pedestrian crashes is growing.

Fatal crashes grew by 50 percent in 2022, according to a report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That’s in line with the national trend: A pedestrian is injured every 10 minutes in crashes across the U.S. Last year, more than 7,500 Americans were killed after being hit by a car while walking–the most in more than 40 years.

Who’s at fault in these crashes? It depends…

What Drivers Need to Know


There are state laws aimed at keeping pedestrians safe. Drivers must:

  • Yield to pedestrians in a sidewalk, alley, or driveway
  • Yield to pedestrians who have started crossing at an intersection or crosswalk on a walk signal or a green light 
  • Yield to pedestrians crossing the highway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic lights or control signals
  • Not pass any vehicle stopped at an intersection or crosswalk for a pedestrian or bicyclist 

What Pedestrians Need to Know 


Meanwhile, pedestrians have to abide by some rules too. They must:

  • Yield to drivers when crossing a road where there is no intersection or crosswalk, or where the pedestrian does not have a walk signal and vehicles have a green light
  • Not suddenly move into the path of a moving vehicle that doesn’t have time to yield
  • Walk on the left side of a road when not on a sidewalk

One City’s Solution


Green Bay recently started installing 64 rectangular rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) near schools around the city as a way to encourage pedestrian safety.

RRFBs are lights that flash to alert drivers that people are crossing the street. In other cities, they’ve reduced crashes by 47% and increased drivers’ yielding by up to 96%.

 

The $1.6 million project was funded thanks to funds allocated by a 2022 referendum, as well as Green Bay’s remaining COVID relief funds, in partnership with the Green Bay Area Public School District.


“They make our entire community a place that we can walk, we can bike, and that we can have a healthier lifestyle,” Dr. Claude Tiller, Jr. said at a press conference this month.

RRFBs are lights that flash to alert drivers that pedestrians are crossing. Photo Courtesy Green Bay Area Public School District

MORE: Pedestrian Deaths Reach Highest Level in 41 Years

Author

  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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