Turns out, there's a method to the madness of crosswalk lights. Here it is.

About five years ago, municipalities across the United States, Canada, and likely points elsewhere began installing new technology for crosswalk safety.

Gone were many of the simple “WALK" or “DON'T WALK" signals (or corresponding hand or figure illustrations) like this one:


Image via Thinkstock.

They were replaced by ones with countdown clocks, telling pedestrians how much time they had before they could no longer safely cross the street. The video here is an example, or here's an image:

Image by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr (cropped).

These new crosswalk signals had a pretty clear goal: keep pedestrians safer by giving them advance warning as to when the traffic lights would change.

And guess what? According to a study published in 2014 written by a pair of economists (PDF available here), the crosswalks worked.

The two researchers, Sacha Kapoor and Arvind Magesan, studied the change in accident rates at nearly 2,000 intersections in Toronto and concluded the pedestrians stopped when the timer ticked too low and rushed to safety at other times — and as a result, dangerous intersections became less dangerous.

The planned outcome of the new crosswalk signals worked.

Unfortunately, the researchers discovered that pedestrians weren't the only ones making use of the countdown.

Drivers were noticing them too, and that unintended use had an unintended — and hardly positive — outcome. Toronto was left with a bunch more car accidents.

Over time, the rate of accidents at these intersections increased.

NPR explains:

The largest increase is in rear-end accidents and we think it's because two cars approaching a light, who both see the countdown, the guy behind, he sees the two or three seconds and thinks, oh, the guy in front of me is going to floor it too, I'll floor it and we'll both get through the intersection. Whereas the guy in front thinks, OK, I only have two or three seconds left, I'm going to slowdown. And this is exactly the type of accident that would happen in that case.

To make matters worse, the researchers (per NPR) discovered that “the biggest increases in crashes come at intersections that were previously safe intersections."

Further, as drivers got used to the timers, they began to realize that even having one second left on the clock is enough time to get through the intersection if they're willing to gun the engine, even if recklessly. So, over time, the rate of accidents at these intersections increased.

Unfortunately, Toronto's city government, upon hearing of the research, objected to the results and showed little interest in making any changes, at least initially.

If Toronto or any other city wishes to fix the problem, though, the solutions put forth by Kapoor and Magesan are pretty simple: either find a way to shield the countdown information from drivers or, if that proves difficult, put the old-style crosswalk signals in generally safe intersections.

That second idea wouldn't be out of the ordinary — it is exactly the strategy New York City employs.

Image via Thinkstock.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture