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1961: Panda replaces zebra at road crossing

A new type of road crossing with push button controls for pedestrians is to be introduced next year.

The announcement by the Ministry of Transport confirmed the new 'panda' crossings would be installed on a 12 month experimental basis because of the rising number of accidents on uncontrolled zebra crossings.

In the first half of last year, 533 people were killed or injured on zebra crossings - compared with 447 for the same period in 1959.

The new push button-controlled crossings will be introduced at between 40 and 50 sites in England and Wales.

Half the crossings will be installed where there are none in existence at all at the moment. The remainder will be placed in Guildford in Surrey where all 13 crossings will be converted to the new push button variety, and Lincoln, Lincolnshire, where 10 will be converted.

Transport Minister Ernest Marples - who announced the initiative - said he hoped by imposing an element of control over pedestrian crossings, "some of the dangerous uncertainties of the present system would be eliminated".

Ten million cars

The new crossings will consist of triangular black and white stripes - instead of the current rectangular stripes at zebra crossings.

There will be a push button on either side of the road which will control a set of flashing lights. After pressing the button, a flashing light will tell the user to wait. Drivers will be warned to slow by an amber flashing light, which will then turn to red. At the same time, a 'walk' sign will be illuminated for pedestrians. After a specified time period the 'walk' sign will begin to flash, warning the user that the traffic lights are about to change back to green and it is unsafe to cross.

Zebra crossings were introduced in 1951 when there were two million cars registered on the roads of Britain. There are now ten million cars on Britain's roads and the figure is rising all the time.

The new crossing scheme will begin in April next year.

In Context
The Tufty Club - initially aimed at pre-school children - was also launched in 1961. It was a road safety campaign, which used a series of puppets including Tufty the squirrel to get its message across.

Panda crossings were introduced in April 1962 - but initial confusion over the sequence of flashing lights led to some swift modifications.

The scheme later had to be abandoned as pedestrians and motorists alike complained it was too confusing and the system was also beset with mechanical failures.

The pelican crossing - another system using a push button and flashing lights - was introduced in 1969 and proved more successful.

In the 1990s pelicans were succeeded by puffin crossings - which used sensors to detect the passage of people and cars and thus control the traffic.

By 1998 there were 21.6 million cars registered on the roads of Britain, with 70% of households owning at least one car.


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