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Pedestrian self-reported exposure to distraction by smart phones while walking and crossing the road

Williamson, A, Lennon, A (Peer reviewed)

Pedestrian Safety

ARSC conference 2015

Pedestrian crashes account for approximately 14% of road fatalities in Australia. Crossing the road, while a minor part of total walking, presents the highest crash risk because of potential interaction with motor vehicles. Crash risk is elevated by pedestrian illegal use of the road, which may be widespread (e.g. 20% of crossings at signalised intersections at a sample of sites, Brisbane) and enforcement is rare. Effective road crossing requires integration of multiple skills and judgements, any of which can be hindered by distraction. Observational studies suggest that pedestrians are increasingly likely to 'multitask', using mobile technology for entertainment and communication, elevating the risk of distraction while crossing. To investigate this, intercept interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 211 pedestrians 18-65yrs in Brisbane CBD. Self-reported frequency of using a smart phone use for activities at two levels of distraction: cognitive only (voice calls); or cognitive and visual (text messages, internet access) while walking or crossing the road was collected. Results indicated that smart phone use for potentially distracting activities while walking and while crossing the road was high, especially among 18-30 year olds, who were significantly more likely than 31-44yo or 45-65yo to report smart phone use while crossing the road. For 18-30yo and the higher risk activity of crossing the road, 32% texted at high frequency levels and 27% used internet at high frequency levels. Risky levels of distracted crossing appear to be a growing safety issue for 18-30yo, with greater attention to appropriate interventions needed