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Pedestrians In Metuchen, N.J., Wave Flags To Warn Motorists

METUCHEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey town has decided to fly the flag to stop car-into-pedestrian accidents, placing flags at dangerous crosswalks for walkers to use.

As CBS 2's Derricke Dennis reported Wednesday, the idea is flying high across the country.

Under the program starting this week in Metuchen, bright orange flags will be placed in containers at two intersections. Walkers will take the flags and wave to stop traffic, and show who has the right of way.

Sam Reuter, 7, was flying a flag for safety on Wednesday. He and his mother said they have had too many close calls just crossing the street.

"Both times we were in crosswalks, and they just didn't see us," said Sam's mother, Tyreen Reuter.

"Cars like to go fast on this road," Sam added.

Meutchen Mayor Tom Vahalla said something needs to be done.

"We're willing to try anything to protect our pedestrians," he said.

Mayor Vahalla supports the flags, and took a group of city officials to test them out.

There was one near-miss, but, overall, the idea worked. Everyone made it across in a town that averages 10 to 14 pedestrians hit per year.

"I think last year we had 11 accidents, but, you know, one accident is too many," Vahalla said.

The flags are certainly much more practical and cheaper than the alternative – installing more traffic signals and crosswalks throughout the town. The only downside is keeping the flags in supply.

"It's very bright," Sam Reuter said. "It's very bright orange and it's fluorescent."

And for that reason, the flags are attractive to thieves.

Chicago introduced flags at some of its crosswalks back in December 2011, and at the time, WBBM Newsradio reporter Mike Krauser remarked, "One must also wonder how long the flags will last before someone walks off with them." Since then, thieves have indeed walked off with the flags, and the City of Chicago has had trouble keeping them on hand.

But there are more successful stories elsewhere in the country. Seattle, Charleston, S.C., and Salt Lake City all claim success.

So if you're driving, and you see a pedestrian with a flag, what does it mean?

"It means if I'm in a crosswalk, you should be stopping anyway, but this is just to give you a little bit more notice," Vahalla said.

For now, just two high-traffic intersections in Metuchen will have the flags. The mayor said he will see how it goes.

Do you think the flags are a good idea? Leave your comments below...

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