In Massachusetts You are Meant to Wave to Drivers at Crosswalks!

We presume the instruction for pedestrians to ‘wave’ before going over crosswalks in Great Barrington, MA, means they should make eye-contact with the drivers of approaching vehicles.  But will it work?

On each end of the crosswalks in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is the instruction for pedestrians to 'Stop, Look, and Wave!!
‘Stop, Look & Wave’ is the instruction on crosswalks in Gt Barrington, MA. (Copyright image, 2018.)

If our assumption is correct, it makes us wonder whether some younger people — or perhaps people of one particular gender — will necessarily be comfortable with the concept of waving to people of a different gender, especially to those individuals who are, shall we say, a little less than desirable or perhaps even a little frightening.  (Yes, we are dancing around the political correctness of this situation but you all know precisely what we mean!)  This may seem like a silly comment but if not everyone can be expected to be comfortable with the ‘wave’ suggestion then surely something more appropriate needs to be found to make the issue sustainable.

A woman with dogs, using a crosswalk.
Well one of the dogs kept looking as they crossed! 🙂     (Copyright image, 2018.)

Using reminder words painted on the pavement at crosswalks is a very useful technique that has been used in some other countries for many decades and has been slow arriving in the USA, but that isn’t the issue.  Could a better suggestion be found than the word ‘wave’?

When crossing a road or street, whether at a crosswalk or not (bearing in mind that in many places there certainly are not enough crosswalks, and sometimes none at all),  it is extremely important to keep checking both ways while crossing, not just before setting off… You never know when you, as a pedestrian, will cross paths with a drunk, drugged, distracted or drowsy driver — and if they don’t notice that big, conspicuous crosswalk they probably won’t notice you, whether you wave or not, so keep checking!

On that basis, we would suggest replacing that word ‘wave’ with ‘use care’.

The push-to-walk button at a pedestrian crosswalk.
(Copyright image, 2018)

Massachusetts is already very inventive with its crosswalks but regrettably the various bright colours it uses for many of them do not use appropriate thermoplastic (paint) and while they may be conspicuous in daylight they can become difficult to see in the dark and absolutely invisible during nighttime rain — obviously this is something that is hugely undesirable when pedestrian safety is the key objective.

And then there is pedestrian behavior, too. If you’ll forgive the pun, pedestrian safety is very much a two-way street

Pedestrian using a cellphone while using a crosswalk.
A distracted pedestrian – possibly just as likely to cause injuries or death as a distracted driver, except it will be to themselves!   (Copyright image, 2018.)

You may want to see how many ‘likes’ you have received on that brain-sucking gadget we nearly all carry with us, but we can guarantee you won’t like having a car parking on top of you, or even getting a glancing blow from a passing cyclist, so please don’t do what the guy in the photo on the left is doing.

Having your eyes down might result in you landing face down.

Who cares if you have a green ‘cross now’ light!  Have you never heard of red-light runners?

As part of our defensive and advanced driving courses at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] we include research-based information and best-practice skills to help your corporate drivers avoid any chance of harming pedestrians or other vulnerable road users (and getting your company a lawsuit).  Check out our Courses page  and contact us from there for more details.


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Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

8 thoughts on “In Massachusetts You are Meant to Wave to Drivers at Crosswalks!”

  1. Stop…point to the other side…look left and right is the suggestion I would make but wave is better than staring down at a phone. All crosswalks should be marked as well as the one pictured

    1. I agree with your sentiments, Bill, but I think any painted messages need to be much shorter. (I was even concerned that my own suggestion, above, had added a word!) 🙂

      In Britain, by the way, a major concern is for pedestrians looking the wrong way on one-way streets, so generally the only ‘painted’ messages there tell people which way to look. The rest of the message is drilled into young people by means of PSA video advertisements on television.

      1. True enough Eddie, well said. Another advantage to waving is perhaps the drivers might wave back in acknowledged reaction thus affirming the eye contact and commitment to yield to the pedestrian.

        1. Ahhhh…. Now our paths part a little, Bill! 🙂 First of all, just as one should never trust a turn-signal until the vehicle displaying it starts to turn, nor should one trust a waving hand from a driver until a vehicle is almost stopped. How do we, as pedestrians know whether a moving hand is genuine or whether the driver is talking on a hands-free device and is a person who gesticulates while talking? But just as importantly — and this is something we teach at ADoNA — pedestrians (and indeed other drivers under different circumstances, at intersections) seem to have a blindness to other risks once a driver has gestured to them. As a traffic patrol police officer, I attended a serious-injury collision where the crossing had two lanes in each direction and a pedestrian boldly walked out after getting a wave from the driver in her nearest lane, only to be hit by a car that was coming past in the next lane, in which the driver had blindly failed to notice or respond to the crossing. In other words, there certainly are circumstances where a driver waving or gesturing to a pedestrian can wrongly affect the pedestrian’s confidence in the safety of the situation, and in turn that could contribute to the pedestrian being hit.

          1. My apologies for not being more clear. The wave signifies nothing more than an intent to yield. The pedestrian should wait until all vehicles have stopped before actually stepping forward and entering the crosswalk.

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