Pedestrians receiving alerts while texting chose larger gaps, were more discriminating in gap choices, and better timed their crossing than those texting without warnings.

Pedestrian road-crossing task examines the effects of texting with and without warnings.

January 7-11, 2018
Nationwide; United States

Summary Information

Distraction caused by increased pedestrian use of mobile technology is a risk factor for pedestrian-vehicle collisions. This project used an immersive pedestrian simulator to evaluate how warnings of imminent collisions delivered to pedestrians via their cell phone influenced road crossing. The research team hypothesized that warnings would lead to safer gap choices for texting pedestrians.


The study used a pedestrian road-crossing task to examine the effects of texting with and without warnings. Warnings were sent when the participants began to cross a gap that was too small (< 2.5 s) to be safely crossed. Participants stood at the edge of a one-lane (virtual) road and watched a continuous stream of traffic that approached from their left. Vehicle speed was held constant at 25 or 35 mi/h. Vehicles were timed such that the temporal gap between vehicles was either 2.5 s, 3.0 s, 3.5 s, 4.0 s, or 4.5 s. Participants were instructed to cross the road without being hit. Once they had selected a gap to cross, participants physically walked to the other side of the virtual road at which time the traffic ceased. Participants then walked back to the starting position, and a new trial commenced.


Participants who received alerts while texting chose larger gaps (mean gap size of 3.68 s versus 3.56 s in the control and 3.50 s in the texting conditions), were more discriminating in their gap choices (wait time of 8.42 s versus 5.02 s in the control and 5.17 s in the texting conditions), and better timed their crossing motions (0.88 s to spare versus 0.86 s to spare in the control and 0.76 s to spare in the taxing conditions).

However, the warning group relied heavily on the alert system and paid less attention to the roadway (42 percent attention to traffic versus 96 percent attention in the control and 60 percent attention in the texting conditions). The results highlight the potential of cell phone alerts to increase the safety of texting pedestrians. However, the results also raise concerns about the impact of overreliance on technology for making road crossing decisions

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Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) Communications Technology: Do Cell Phone Warnings Improve Road-Crossing Safety for Texting Pedestrians?

Author: Rahimian, Pooya et al.

Published By: Transportation Research Board

Source Date: January 7-11, 2018


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pedestrian, crosswalk alerts, texting, distraction, vehicle-to-pedestrian, V2P

Benefit ID: 2018-01286