Traffic light expert shares why you shouldn't press pedestrian button multiple times


‘I like pushing it multiple times’: Traffic light expert shares why you shouldn’t press pedestrian button more than once

'I just assumed those buttons weren't connected to anything.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Sep 9, 2023   Updated on Sep 16, 2023, 11:29 am CDT

If you’ve ever stood at a crosswalk waiting for the ‘Walk’ sign to appear, you may have been tempted to hit the button to tell the system that you wish to cross. If you’re particularly impatient, you hit the button several times, hoping to indicate to the system that you’d really, really like to cross the street as soon as possible.

However, that’s not how the system really works, according to TikTok user Traffic Light Doctor (@trafficlightdoctor). In a video with over 1.9 million views as of Saturday, the TikToker explains why hitting the button more than once doesn’t mean that you’re going to be crossing the street any sooner.

@trafficlightdoctor Replying to @odis ♬ original sound – 🚦 Traffic Light Doctor 🚦

In summary, hitting the button sends a ‘call’ signal that you want the crosswalk light to change. Once you’ve done that, the system will note the call until the light changes—no matter how many times you hit the button.

“It doesn’t matter if you press this button one time or a hundred times, it’s still going to do the same thing and just receive a call, and it won’t drop out until that call is answered,” the TikToker says. “Once it’s answered, it will drop out, and that button will be back to where it was prior to you ever pressing it.”

“So feel free to push these buttons as many times as you want to,” the TikToker concludes.

While the Traffic Light Doctor is correct about that specific system, there are actually multiple uses for these crosswalk buttons. Some affect the timing of the crossing light; others do not.

In some areas, crosswalks are automatically set for pedestrian calls during the daytime, as there are typically a significant number of cars and passengers. Only outside of these specific hours do the crosswalk buttons work in the way shown in the TikToker’s video.

In other areas, these signals are not designed to make a walk sign appear; rather, they exist to either assist people with disabilities or serve to assist in pedestrian safety.

Concerning the former, some crosswalk buttons will begin making a sound when pressed, generally a slow knocking sound. When it’s time to cross, the sound will change to a more rapid knocking, indicating to those with visual impairments that it’s safe to cross.

Regarding the latter, sometimes, a pedestrian crossing button solely illuminates the area around a crosswalk. This warns oncoming drivers that there are people in the crosswalk for whom they should be mindful.

In the comments section of the TikToker’s video, users shared their own thoughts on pedestrian crossing buttons.

“I like pushing it multiple times, not because it makes it go faster, but because the ‘wait’ voice sounds like a duck,” said a commenter.

“I swear it doesn’t do anything,” another stated.

“I love pressing it endlessly,” a third user commented. “What a relief im not breaking the system.”

In an email to the Daily Dot, the TikToker noted that “Crosswalk systems typically operate 24/7, accepting inputs at all times. However, some systems might have variations in sensitivity during different times of day, optimizing for busier traffic periods.”

He also offered some thoughts about how our current systems could be improved.

“To enhance crosswalk systems, consider incorporating advanced sensors like Radars or Cameras for improved vehicle and pedestrian detection,” he explains. “Additionally, implementing adaptive algorithms to adjust crossing times based on real-time traffic conditions could enhance safety (less wait to cross if no vehicles are present).”

His experience in this field, he says, has taught him a lot about traffic and how it can impact our everyday lives.

“Over the years that I’ve been working on these systems I’ve noticed that pedestrian and driver behavior can vary significantly depending on factors like traffic flow, weather, and location,” he detailed. “Observations have highlighted the importance of clear signage, well-marked crosswalks, and pedestrian education to promote safe interactions between pedestrians and drivers.”

“I strive to educate people on these systems to help lower the extremely high statistics of injuries and fatalities that happen at intersections yearly,” he concludes.

Update 11:25am CT, Sept. 16, 2023: As of Saturday, the Traffic Light Doctor’s original video on the pedestrian button has climbed to over 3 million views. Viewers were quick to share their shock at the information and ask more questions in the comments section, with the TikToker responding to one that many were not aware of.

“What about 3 sec hold?” one comment read, leading the creator to make another video sharing a tip many did not know about.

“If you press and hold, it will give you the information of where you’re crossing and what intersection you’re at,” he says.

@trafficlightdoctor Replying to @adriaaaa_nnn ♬ original sound – 🚦 Traffic Light Doctor 🚦
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*First Published: Sep 9, 2023, 9:22 am CDT