High intensity Activated Crosswalk activated near school - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

HAWK traffic signal activated near Hesse Elementary School

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CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

New to the Coastal Empire: some traffic technology that will make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Transportation activated a HAWK signal on Whitefield Avenue. HAWK stands for High intensity Activated Crosswalk, which was placed right in front of Hesse Elementary School, and it's all part of the 204 Spur/Whitefield Avenue widening project.

Many people who live on Whitefield wanted a traditional traffic light at the school so kids can cross safely, but Jill Nagel from GADOT explains this signal has students and any pedestrian in mind.

"It's an intermittent traffic signal, so when it's needed, it's activated, and when it's not, it keeps motorists moving," Nagel said.

And she also explains not every intersection needs a light. "We did traffic studies on each intersection on this project; we look at traffic counts, traffic patterns, where wrecks are happening to figure out where the most efficient and safe location to put up these traffic signals," she said.

Still, when the traditional lights went up down the road from the school at Hendry Street, some neighbors' eyebrows went up as well.

Connie Shippy said, "We got really concerned about that because our grandkids come to our house after school, and go to school from here on Wednesdays and have to wait for the bus, so I got really excited about the crosswalk."

With this new technology to Southeast Georgia, you may have to learn the rules a little bit. It's easy for pedestrians to press this button, and wait for the walk sign, but drivers have to get used the lights.

Flashing yellow means slow down: pedestrians in the area. The double red means stop: there's someone in the roadway. A flashing red means stop and then go if the roadway is clear.

When the system is not activated, it actually just looks like the power is out.  So as we saw firsthand, this new HAWK signal is going to take some getting used to.

Bard Way who lives near the school is not quite sold on the idea. "There's something to be said for having a street light there all the time so that everybody is aware of it and it's not a surprise."

But Georgia DOT believes this is the solution for safety during school and traffic flow when school is not in session.

"It will only work if pedestrians and motorists follow the guidelines," Nagel added.

Here's a link with more details about what to expect.  

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