What is a PHB and how can it keep pedestrians safe?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

As sections of our city and others throughout North Carolina grow increasingly populated with homes and businesses, crosswalks with no signage or lights are no longer adequate to provide safety to pedestrians, e-scooter riders and bicyclists. Even when pedestrians cross the street at marked crosswalks with the light, that doesn’t guarantee their safety. 

Some cities are using something called a “pedestrian hybrid beacon (PHB)” at selected crosswalks. They’re becoming more common near schools, playgrounds, parks, daycare centers and senior centers.

You can spot a PHB by the placement of the lights. Instead of three lights aligned vertically, there are two on top and one underneath. There’s often some type of signage at the same level that indicates a crosswalk. Also unlike the traffic lights we’re used to seeing, PHBs are only activated when someone needs to cross the street. This means less disruption for drivers at times when the crosswalk may not be busy.

How do the lights work?

The lights have only two colors: Red and yellow. They remain dark until someone pushes a button indicating they need to cross the street, just as with typical traffic lights. (Some PHBs can even detect a person without the button being pushed.) 

  • At that point, the light on the bottom will flash yellow to let drivers know that someone is preparing to cross. An approaching driver should slow down and be prepared to stop if they can do so safely
  • The light then turns solid yellow. At that point, drivers should stop unless it’s unsafe.
  • Next, both lights on top turn solid red. Only then do pedestrians get their signal to cross.
  • As pedestrians get the countdown to finish crossing, the lights begin to flash red. Drivers can proceed only if no one is in the crosswalk.
  • Finally, the lights go dark again until someone else needs to cross.

Even when the lights are dark, drivers need to slow down and look both ways for pedestrians. Unfortunately, too many fail to do that. Even PHBs can’t prevent all drivers from being careless. If you or a loved one has been injured by a motorist, it’s crucial that you seek the compensation you need for expenses and damages.