Best Foot Forward was created to reverse the conflict between pedestrians and drivers by focusing on one specific behavior change – getting more drivers to yield for pedestrians at marked crosswalks as Florida law requires. More than a campaign, Best Foot Forward is a behavior change-based program designed to improve road safety through consistent and persistent education, high-visibility crosswalk enforcement and low-cost engineering at marked crosswalks near elementary schools and LYNX bus stops, in urban areas and cross-sections of low and high-speed roads. So how does Best Foot Forward do that?
Overview of Best Foot Forward
The Best Foot Forward campaign targets both pedestrians and drivers. For pedestrians, the focus is on working adults, the elderly and children. Working adults are walking to bus stops and crossing busy streets to travel to work. As for the elderly and children, they are vulnerable because they have difficulty estimating the speed and distance of oncoming cars, especially at night.
Best Foot Forward works with local public and private schools, assisted living facilities, businesses, homeowners’ associations, clubs and LYNX to educate the targeted groups. At outreach presentations and events, local law enforcement and safety advocates can speak to seniors, working adults and children about special considerations when walking.
To target drivers, law enforcement will stop drivers who fail to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks. Media events are coordinated to film enforcement operations to promote a broader awareness, and public officials often attend enforcement operations as well. Communication tools such as social media, videos, public service announcements, speaking engagements and community events aim to keep pedestrian safety top of mind for Central Floridians.
Best Foot Forward follows the best practices of programs around the country that have seen proven success. Our structure is based on a 2013 NHTSA Study in Gainesville, FL and a 1998 FDOT/NHTSA study in St. Petersburg. In Gainesville, workers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracked how many drivers yielded for pedestrians in 12 marked crosswalks. They conducted a high-visibility enforcement campaign on six of those crosswalks, with the other six serving as a control group. At the end of a year, officials saw driver yield rates double at the enforced crosswalks. But they also saw yield rates increase in the control group, proving the effects of high-visibility enforcement are felt beyond areas of enforcement.
NHTSA’s outline and program results have been replicated several places, including in Ann Arbor, MI in 2018.
Other studies prove that a cross-disciplinary, integrated approach results in the greatest amount of behavior change. That’s why Best Foot Forward uses a multi-prong approach that combines education, engineering, and enforcement to encourage behavior change and get more drivers to yield, or stop, for people at crosswalks as Florida law requires.
- New paint for crosswalks
- Additional signage
- Installation of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB)
- Moving a crosswalk to a location that encourages more usage
- Community events
- Presentations at neighborhood or homeowners’ groups
- Educational programs and events at schools
- Media stories on high-visibility enforcement
- Social media messages and outreach
- Website articles
- 2-4 enforcement operations each year
- Focus on dangerous, high-crash areas
- Focus on crosswalks near schools and bus stops
Each year, Best Foot Forward coalition partners choose several crosswalks to monitor and enforce. Below are a few factors that go into choosing which crosswalks Best Foot Forward will watch:
- Crosswalk is enforceable
- Low-cost engineering changes needed to the marked crosswalks
- Proximity to schools, transit stops, trails, and parks
- Located near high crash corridors
- Geographically dispersed
After crosswalks are chosen for the year, Best Foot Forward data collectors will travel to those locations to collect baseline data for driver yield rates. Best Foot Forward uses a proven method to gather and collect driver yield rates. Then, data collectors will track yield rates before and after each high-visibility enforcement. Over time, Best Foot Forward tracks which crosswalks are seeing more drivers yield to pedestrians and which may need additional attention and treatment (for example, engineering changes).
To accurately track behavior change (getting more drivers to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks), Best Foot Forward uses standards approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Best Foot Forward data collectors use staged crossings to measure the number of drivers who do not yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Driver-yielding behavior is measured in an objective dilemma zone. The team employs the formula used by traffic engineers to determine whether a driver can safely stop at a traffic signal to determine the distance at which a driver can safely yield to a pedestrian standing with one foot in the crosswalk. The formula (from the Institute of Traffic Engineers) considers driver reaction time, safe deceleration rate, posted speed, and road grade. The formula determines the distance to the dilemma zone boundary by multiplying the time by the speed limit in feet per second.
To identify a dilemma zone, data collectors mark the zone’s location with a sprinkler flag, bright tape, a traffic cone, or other objects that can be seen from the crosswalk. Suppose a data collector enters a crosswalk before the driver enters the dilemma zone, and the driver fails to yield. In that case, it is scored as “not yielding” because the driver had sufficient time and space to stop safely for the pedestrian. However, drivers who enter the dilemma zone before the data collector places a foot in the crosswalk cannot be scored as failing to yield. The formula to determine the dilemma zone is relatively lenient; hence, many vehicles past the dilemma zone can safely yield.
Best Foot Forward collects driver yield rate data at monitored crosswalks once every six weeks and uses the following procedures at each crosswalk:
- Complete three sets of crossings per crosswalk (must be at different times of the day)
- Each set consists of 20 individual tracked street-crossings
- Record observations about the visibility of people and signage, weather, the behavior of drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and engineering features