Heads down, texting and walking is the worst
Cities and shopping malls across the world are trying to save the lives of those who walk around phone in hand
Sending traffic warnings to the “heads-down-tribe” – those who text and walk - could help prevent them from being mowed down by vehicles.
Researchers at the University of Iowa have been looking at ways to harness technology to prevent fatalities among pedestrians who are struck by vehicles while texting. According to the World Health Organisation, of the 1.24 million road deaths annually on the world’s roads more than 270,000 are pedestrians.
In their study published in Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in June, the Iowa researchers simulated a busy roadway to determine whether sending loud warning sounds to cellphones when texting pedestrians attempted to cross an unsafe gap would result in safer crossing behaviour.
Examining their results from more than 300 road-crossing trials in a 3D immersive pedestrian simulator with 48 participants, the researchers found that the warnings were somewhat effective in mitigating distraction from texting.The group of texting pedestrians who received the warnings were overall more cautious relative to their counterparts who did not receive the warnings. But they were concerned to discover that even after receiving a warning, people never reversed course once they had entered the roadway.
“This is consistent with other research showing that the brain has difficulty stopping actions once they are initiated. Texting pedestrians in the warning group also spent less time looking at traffic, possibly indicating an over-reliance on the alerts.
“Real-time information about when roads are safe or dangerous to cross could aid pedestrians in making good crossing decisions.
“However, there are significant challenges in the development of sensor technology to reliably and accurately measure traffic conditions and movement initiation in time to prevent collisions,” the researchers said.
South African on-line road safety awareness initiative Arrive Alive said road safety authorities “often create awareness of the dangers of distractions to drivers and neglect to focus on the distractions facing pedestrians as well”.“We are now finding more and more accidents as a result of pedestrian inattentiveness. These are not merely resulting from pedestrians who weren't paying attention as they climbed up or down stairs, but also from motor vehicle crashes,” Arrive Alive said.
The agency continued: “Most such crashes occur when the pedestrian crosses the street and many seem to result from pedestrian inattentiveness. Thus, when pedestrians are using cellphones, distracted attention may increase their risk of accidents. We find a lot of people text messaging, on the phone, looking down or listening to music on their iPods.
“For pedestrians most of the information at a crosswalk is obtained visually by watching traffic, seeing the markings and signage and observing the signs that indicate when it is safe to walk.
“Pedestrians who attempt to multitask while talking on a cellphone have a reduced cognitive capacity to devote to potentially dangerous activities such as crossing streets. The rise in use of personal electronics may be the main ingredient in a recipe for disaster especially around schools, campuses and so.”
DEALING WITH TEXTING AND WALKING
Texting and walking in Summit, New Jersey, has become such a concern that the town is now changing their streets to protect pedestrians and drivers;
Managers of a mall in the Chinese city of Xi’an have created pedestrian lanes around the shopping precinct for walkers who don’t bother to look up from their cellphones; and
Honolulu in Hawaii has passed a law that allows the police to fine pedestrians up to $35 (about R480) for viewing their electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county.