Lighting the way to safer crosswalks

Good things can come from tragedy.

That's one lesson of the crosswalk safety system Michael Harrison of Windsor invented two decades ago.

In 1991, Santa Rosa had an alarming spike in crosswalk accidents in which 39 people were hit by cars. Six of them died.

LightGuard Systems Inc.


One of the drivers who killed a pedestrian was a friend of Harrison's. It was the classic situation in which the driver said he didn't see the elderly man, who was out for ice cream as part of his nightly routine.

"He was obviously upset for some time," Harrison said of his guilt-laden friend.

"It got me thinking about what it did to the individual — the motorist," he said. "Everyone usually thinks of the pedestrian."

Harrison, a corporate pilot at the time, drew his inspiration from runway lights. Why not a similar lighting system to help improve pedestrian safety?

He came up with an embedded flashing amber light system on each side of the crosswalk to alert motorists to the presence of a pedestrian. And so his LightGuard System was born.

Nowadays they are in use in many states and closer to home in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Windsor and Healdsburg.

Among the next crosswalks to get the in-road warning light system is likely to be one in Cloverdale where two boys were struck and seriously injured by a pickup truck on Halloween night.

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