Brochure | 2017

Safety Benefits of Raised Medians Tri-fold Brochure

  • Published by:  Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Authored by:  Tamara Redmon

FHWA Tri-fold Summary of 8 Page Brochure

Safety Benefits of Raised Medians and Pedstrian Refuge Areas

There’s a signal up the block, but looking left — there’s a gap in traffic. Looking right — there should be enough time to make it all the way. Midway across she picks up the pace as some vehicles have changed lanes and are closer than she thought — now traffic is coming towards her from both directions. She is stuck in the middle of the road, keeping her feet on the yellow lines while waiting for traffic to pass so she can make it across the rest of the way. That’s when it happens…a truck passing by clips her while she stands in the middle of the road. He slams on the brakes once he realizes what happened — but it is too late.

The resulting crash is all too common. It was also preventable by providing a median or pedestrian refuge area. Crossing roadways that do not have medians can be dangerous. In fact, the pedestrian crash risk for crossing the arterial without a median was 6.48 times higher than for crossing the arterial with a median.

Raised Medians and Pedestrian Refugee Areas

Pedestrian crashes account for about 12 percent of all traffic fatalities annually. Over 75 percent of these fatalities occur at non-intersection locations. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every 120 minutes and one is injured every 8 minutes.2 Many of these crashes are preventable. By providing raised medians and pedestrian refuge islands, we can bring these crash numbers down, prevent injuries, and save lives. The median is the area between opposing lanes of traffic — a median can either be open (pavement markings only) or they can be channelized (raised medians or islands) to separate various road users. 

Providing raised medians or pedestrian refuge areas at pedestrian crossings at marked crosswalks has demonstrated a 46 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes. At unmarked crosswalk locations, pedestrian crashes have been reduced by 39 percent.3 Installing raised pedestrian refuge islands on the approaches to unsignalized intersections has had the most impact reducing pedestrian crashes.

Safety Benefits of Raised Medians and Pedestrian Refuge Areas

Crossing the street can be a complex task for pedestrians. Pedestrians must estimate vehicle speeds, adjust their own walking speeds, determine adequacy of gaps, predict vehicle paths, and time their crossings appropriately. Drivers must see pedestrians, estimate vehicle and pedestrian speeds, determine the need for action, and react. At night, darkness and headlamp glare make the crossing task even more complex for both pedestrians and drivers.

Raised medians and pedestrian refuge islands allow pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time. This significantly reduces the complexity of the crossing. They also provide a space to install improved lighting at pedestrian crossing locations. Improved lighting has been shown to reduce nighttime pedestrian fatalities at crossings by 78 percent.

Additional Benefits of Raised Medians

Raised medians provide additional benefits above and beyond reducing pedestrian crashes, including:

• Reducing motor vehicle crashes by 15 percent.

• Decreasing delays (>30 percent) for motorists.

• Increasing capacity (>30 percent) of roadways.

• Reducing vehicle speeds on the roadway.

• Providing space for landscaping within the right-of-way.

• Providing space to install additional roadway lighting, further improving the safety of the roadway.

• Providing space to allow for supplemental signage on multi lane roadways.

• Costing less to build and maintain than paved medians  

Getting Pedestrians Safely Across the Street

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) strongly encourages the use of raised medians (or refuge areas) in curbed sections of multi-lane roadways in urban and suburban areas, particularly in areas where there are mixtures of a signifi cant number of pedestrians, high volumes of traffi c (more than 12,000 vehicles per day) and intermediate or high travel speeds.3 FHWA guidance further states that medians/refuge islands should be at least 4 feet wide (preferably 8 feet wide for accommodation of pedestrian comfort and safety) and of adequate length to allow the anticipated number of pedestrians to stand and wait for gaps in traffi c before crossing the second half of the street.3 On refuges 6 feet or wider that serve designated pedestrian crossings, detectable warning strips complying with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act must be installed. Medians are especially important at transit stop locations. Transit stops are frequently located along busy arterials at uncontrolled crossing locations. Providing medians can make these crossings safer and more appealing to existing and potential transit users.  

Effects, Medians
Benefits, pedestrian, raised medians, safety