Driving behavior at midblock crosswalks with Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons: Hidden Markov model approach using naturalistic data

Huizhong Guo, Linda Ng Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pedestrian fatalities have increased in the U.S. with the largest increase being observed on urban arterials and away from intersections. Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) has been widely implemented as a safety countermeasure to improve driver awareness and visibility of pedestrians, especially for midblock crosswalks. Studies show that drivers are more likely to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks with an RRFB. These studies are often based on a binary outcome of whether or not drivers yield to pedestrians. Nevertheless, it is also important to consider the drivers’ deceleration behavior as a dynamic process at these crosswalks and the impact of pedestrians being present or not. Understanding this dynamic behavior and the related circumstances can provide information on the design of alerting systems that help drivers make more appropriate decisions at these crosswalks to avoid a vehicle–pedestrian crash. This study examined this research topic using Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) and data from a naturalistic study. More specifically, four HMMs were applied to the naturalistic brake and jerk data from the Safety Pilot Model Deployment (SPMD) program given drivers’ intention to slow down, the RRFB activation status, and the presence of pedestrians. The time-based data sequence was converted to distance-based through a moving window to enhance result comparison and interpretation. Grid-search was used to select the best moving window parameters and the optimal number of hidden states. This study confirmed the high compliance at an activated RRFB when pedestrians were present. Even without pedestrians, one in five traversals showed drivers slowing down to less than 8.94 m/s (20 mph) within 35 m of the crosswalk. Model results further indicate that drivers started braking as far back as 180 m before the crosswalk and stopped braking from 70 m before the crosswalk at an activated RRFB without pedestrians. When there were pedestrians, drivers would start braking 20 to 30 m later but would brake more firmly and for longer. Finally, drivers were not likely to brake or decelerate when RRFB was off and no pedestrians were present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106406
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Driver behavior
  • Hidden Markov model
  • Midblock crosswalk
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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