Road and Traffic Safety

Pedestrian Safety - New Laws - New Devices

New rules at pedestrian crossovers and school crossings in effect starting January 1, 2016

Drivers (including cyclists) must stop and yield the whole roadway only at pedestrian crossovers and at school crossings where there is a crossing guard displaying a school crossing stop sign.

The new law also provides road authorities the ability to install new types of pedestrian crossovers in addition to the existing crossovers (level 1 crossover).  A level 1 crossover is defined by the use of signs, flashing amber overhead beacons and activated by a pedestrian pushbutton.

Learn more about the new pedestrian crossovers in our brochure.  Although the new law became effective January 1, 2016 education material is being distributed in conjunction with the first level 2 crossover installations in the Region. 

Does the new legislation apply to intersections such as signal or stop controlled locations?  No

It is up to both drivers and pedestrians to keep everyone safe.  Learn more about the new law at the Ministry of Transportation web site

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Street Lights

The Region of Waterloo in partnership with the Cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo and the Townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich are replacing existing High Pressure Sodium (HPS) street lights with  Light Emitting Diode (LED) street lights to reduce the carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels and to reduce costs.  This includes replacing approximately 43,000 lights during 2017.

Frequently asked questions about street lights

Why does the Region light roadways? 

  • Roadway lighting is proven to enhance motor vehicle and pedestrian safety.

What is light pollution? 

  • Light pollution is wasted light also known as "sky glow".  All light sources such as roadway lighting, motor vehicle headlights, interior lighting and commercial or industrial lighting can contribute to light pollution.

What is the Region doing to reduce light pollution? 

  • The Region and its partnering local municipalities have acquired LED street lights that are considered "Dark Sky Friendly" by the International Dark Sky Association.  The International Dark Sky Association has an interest in reducing light pollution and maintaining the visibility of our night sky.
  • The Region is using warmer coloured LED lights to minimize use of blue light which is known to scatter further through the atmosphere compared to other colours.

  •  LED lights in the City of Kitchener have the ability to be dimmed during off-peak hours.  All other LED lights in the Region will have the ability to be dimmed in the future.

  • LED lights were designed to minimize unnecessary over lighting.

Are all street lights being converted to LED? 

  • The traditional street lights often called "cobra-head" lights are being converted to LED.  Decorative street lights will be converted at a later date.

Do LED lights impact public health? 

  • All light sources can impact human health in particular the human circadian rhythm (sleep pattern).  Excessive exposure to blue light may also impact sleep patterns and contribute to sleep related illnesses.  The Region has complied with the American Medical Association's recommendations regarding LED lights to address health concerns.

What is light trespass? 

  • Light trespass is unwanted artificial light intruding upon private property.

What is the Region doing to reduce light trespass? 

  • The Region required street lights designed to prevent over lighting and reduce light trespass.

What is glare?

  • Glare is a term often used to describe difficulty seeing in the presence of a bright light source such as the sun or artificial light sources such as the headlights of a motor vehicle.  Glare can cause discomfort, such that a person desires to look aware from the light.  Glare can also disable one's ability to see.

What is the Region doing about LED street light glare concerns?

  • The Region required street lights to meet certain specifications to minimize glare.

Can glare associated with LED street lights degrade road safety?

  • The Region is unaware of any evidence in the industry that suggests glare from LED street lights degrade safety.

Can LED street lights improve road safety?

  • There is overwhelming evidence supporting the safety benefits of roadway lighting, however no specific evidence suggesting that LED lighting would further enhance safety over traditional street light methods.

How long do LED lights last?

  • LED street lights are expected to last 15 years?

Why did the Region not switch to LED earlier?

  • The Region has been monitoring LED street light technology since 2006 and opted to wait for the technology to improve and for the cost to come down. 

Be Alert, Be Seen

The Office for Injury Prevention, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Police Servcies, CAA, Ontario's trauma centres and other road safety partners invite you to Be Alert, Be Seen, a Provincial road safety campaign encouraging both drivers and pedestrians to stay focused and remain visible while using the roads.

Campaign resources:

-        Videos:

-        FAQ's:  http://sunnybrook.ca/content/?page=rbc-first-office-injury-prevention

-        Social media hashtags: #BeAlert, #BeSeen, #StayVisible, #StaySafe, #WalkSafely

Safety Countermeasures Program

Staff at the Region continually looks for opportunities to improve traffic safety on Region of Waterloo roads.  The goal of the Region's Collision Countermeasure Program is to reduce collisions and injuries to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists using proven collision countermeasure methods and pilot programs.  The summary below includes some of the Region's countermeasures and their level of safety effectiveness.  These measures are part of a larger list of programs that the Region already has in place.

If you are interested in learning more about countermeasures or have questions concerning any road safety related matter, please feel free to contact us at transportation@regionofwaterloo.ca

Traffic Signals

Rarely are traffic signals installed for the purposes of improving traffic safety.  Instead, most traffic signals are installed to minimize unnecessary delay. 

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An evaluation of intersections showed that collisions increased between 11% and 40% after traffic signals were installed.  Angle collisions which are far less frequent but tend to be more severe in terms of resulting injury were reduced between approximately 3% and 28%.

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Right-turn Smart Channel

In many cases drivers in a traditional channelized right-turn lane are forced to look over their shoulder for approaching vehicles while veering their vehicle to the right, taking their attention away from the road.  Smart channels help reduce this angle so drivers can focus more of their attention to the road and vehicles in front of them.  As a result, smart channels have shown an 86% reduction in all rear-end collisions and a 73% reduction in rear-end collisions causing injury.  They also help to create a better environment for pedestrians as the design helps to reduce vehicle speeds.

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Pedestrian Countdown Signals

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Pedestrian countdown signals give a visual indication of how much time is remaining to cross; this has helped reduce the number of collisions involving pedestrians by approximately 30%.  Statistically, there has been no significant change in the number of collisions involving vehicles.

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Roundabouts

A review of intersections on Region of Waterloo roads that were replaced with a roundabout indicates that collisions involving injuries or fatalities have been reduced by approximately 51%; where collisions in general increased slightly by approximately 35%.

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Set-back Left-turn Traffic Signal Detectors

Set-back Left-Turn Traffic Signal Detectors are detectors embedded into the asphalt surface to detect waiting vehicles at signalized intersections.

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Setting them back from the stop bar allows a traffic signal to skip a left-turn advance signal phase when there is little demand or no vehicle present.  By doing this the traffic signal can reassign more time to the main green signal which will better service the majority of motorists waiting to go straight through the intersection.  Skipping left-turn phases may seem to contradict the purpose of traffic signals however our studies suggest that traffic signals that serve demand more effectively can result in improved safety.  This initiative, where implemented, has resulted in reduced collisions involving left-turning motorists by approximately 19%.

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Advance Left-turn Signals

picture of advance left signal.jpgDespite many beliefs, advanced left-turn phases typically do not make intersections safer.  A study of 13 locations over a total of 39 study years (average 3 years per location) determined that there was no resulting safety benefit.

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Road Diets

A road diet is a term for a project that reduces the number of regular travel lanes on a roadway.  A typical road diet would see a 4-lane roadway reduced to 3 lanes consisting of one through lane in each direction plus a continuous two-way centre left-turning lane. 

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These types of projects are considered when traffic demand does not necessitate 4-lanes of traffic.  There are many examples of this type of project throughout North America.  The latest example in the Region of Waterloo occurred on Frederick Street between Bruce Street and Edna Street.  Since this project was completed collisions have been reduced by approximately 44%.

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Median and Pedestrian Refuge Islands

Often pedestrians will cross roadways between intersections at uncontrolled locations to minimize walking distances to destinations despite knowingly taking on risk and increasing vulnerability.  Median islands and or pedestrian refuge islands can be a place of refuge for pedestrians.  Collisions involving pedestrians have been reduced by as much as 80% where installed for the purposes of improving pedestrian safety.

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High-Visibility Ladder Crosswalks

In the Region of Waterloo approximately 100 people are hit every year at traffic signals.  The majority of these collisions occur in crosswalks while the pedestrian has the right-of-way.  To help reduce pedestrian collision at traffic signals, traditional crosswalks are being replaced with high-visibility ladder crosswalks to emphasize areas where pedestrians should be expected.  Where installed pedestrian collisions have been reduced by approximately 70%.picture of ladder crosswalk.jpg 

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Right-Turn Overlap Signal

picture of right turn signal.jpgA right-turn overlap signal is a right-turn signal that comes on at a signalized intersection during another conflicting movement.  This enables motorists intending to turn right to proceed without having to stop for a red light.  Analysis of this operation has shown that collisions involving right-turning motorists have been reduced by approximately 25%.

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Red-light Cameras

Click here for the dedicated page on red-light cameras.

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Setting Speed Limits

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Speed limits are set as close as possible to the observed average speed travelled by motorists to create the most uniform moving traffic possible.  By doing this the frequency of tailgating and unsafe passing is reduced.  Collision analyses have determined that collisions have been reduced by 66% where speed limits have been increased from 60 to 70 kilometres per hour to better reflect average observed speed of motorists.  Alternatively, total collisions increased by 63% when decreasing speed limits from 80 to 70 kilometres per hour in cases where speed limits were set lower without consideration of observed average speed.

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Rural All-way Stop Intersections

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All-way stops are installed at locations either to minimize unnecessary delay or to reduce higher than normal angle or turning related collisions.  All-way stop intersections when installed for safety reasons have reduced collisions by 72% on average.  All-way stops have proved to be a very effective way to improve safety.  It is very important to avoid overuse of all-way stop-controlled intersections to maintain their effectiveness and driver compliance.

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New Initiatives

You may have noticed some new countermeasure initiatives that we are currently undertaking and will be evaluating in more detail and documenting their results.  These include:

Offset Crosswalks

In general about 100 pedestrians are struck in crosswalks at traffic signals in the Region every year.

The most common pedestrian collision occurring at signalized intersections in the Region of Waterloo involves motorists turning left.  Left-turning motorists typically scan for a gap in opposing traffic, commit to the turn and turn into the path of a crossing pedestrian stepping off the curb in the opposing direction.  Offset crosswalks relocate traditional crosswalks a little further back from their traditional location to provide left and right turning motorists additional time and space to observe and react to crossing pedestrians. The offset crosswalk also provides motorists an area to stop their vehicle beyond the pathway of oncoming vehicles should they yield to a pedestrian after committing to a turn. 

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It is our opinion that the current standard guidelines for pedestrian crosswalk design at traffic signals do not adequately protect pedestrians given the frequency of pedestrian collisions that municipalities see at traffic signals every year.  We believe that that the offset crosswalk countermeasure has potential to improve pedestrian safety at signalized intersections. 

We also believe that this alternative design concept has the potential to reduce the number of cyclists being struck in crosswalks at traffic signals.  Over the past 5 years (2009 to 2013) there have been 238 cyclists struck while riding illegally through crosswalks at signalized intersections.  Offset crosswalks are therefore anticipated to slow down cyclists that ride illegally on sidewalks before they enter crosswalks rather than providing cyclists the ability to ride directly into crosswalks unimpeded at full speed.

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