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New study finds pedestrians perform distracting activities too

We have focused quite a bit on pedestrian accidents recently; just last week we talked about the rising pedestrian accident rate here in San Francisco, and what actions may be taken by city officials to correct the issue.

A recent study, though, points to some disturbing behavior by pedestrians that could require city officials to think critically about how to lower pedestrian accidents.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Washington, showed an alarming number of pedestrians are distracted when they cross the street. The study was performed at a number of high-risk intersections, with researchers observing some 1,100 pedestrians. They noted what they were doing while crossing the street — and 29.8 percent of the pedestrians were distracted in some way when they crossed.

Some of the major distracting factors were listening to music (11.2 percent of pedestrians); texting (7.3 percent); and talking on a cell phone (6.2 percent).

Clearly, pedestrians can take a few steps (no pun intended) to improve their safety when crossing the street. Yes, motor vehicles need to be looking out for pedestrians at all times; and they should proceed through intersections cautiously. However, pedestrians can help themselves out too by paying attention while crossing the street.

Even here, though, there is another side to the story. Simply because a pedestrian appears to be distracted (say they have ear buds in) does not mean they actually are distracted. Many are obeying traffic signals and on the watch for vehicles as they cross the street.

Source: The Atlantic, “Study: 1 in 3 People Is Distracted by Their Phone While Crossing Busy Streets,” James Hamblin, April 15, 2013

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