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Curious case of buttons: Devices designed to save time at crosswalks are pointless

Crosswalk times are investigated

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If you're one of those people who pushes that button to change the traffic light at crosswalks — you may be surprised to learn you're wasting your time.

Inside Edition investigated crosswalk times around the country to compare how long you would wait when you press the button compared to when you don’t.

At a busy intersection in Miami Beach, it normally takes 63 seconds for the light to change and you have 30 seconds to cross. When pushing the button, Inside Edition found the wait time is the same — 63 seconds exactly.

At an intersection near Temple University in Philadelphia, it took 60 seconds for the light to turn red. Inside Edition then pushed the pedestrian button and once again, it made no difference.

In New York City, there are hundreds of crosswalk buttons and, as far as we could determine, most do absolutely nothing.

Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero checked out a pedestrian button she found at Manhattan's busy West Side Highway, near the popular Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

“It doesn't change how fast I’ll be able to cross the street,” she declared.

“It makes no difference whatsoever," explained Sam Schwartz, the city's former traffic commissioner.

Guerrero and Schwartz warned others trying to press the button before cross the street.

Apparently, the buttons worked at one time, but not anymore. Schwartz said the cost of extracting the devices is the prime reason why they have never been removed.

So the next time you hit that button, there's a good chance it's a total wasted effort.

Guerrero called the crosswalk signs “false advertising.”

There is a silver lining to these non-functioning crosswalk buttons, however. Research has found that even if the buttons don’t do anything, the “illusion” of control they give actually can actually help people feel calmer.

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