The association of distraction and caution displayed by pedestrians at a lighted crosswalk

J Community Health. 2005 Aug;30(4):269-79. doi: 10.1007/s10900-005-3705-4.


The rates of deaths and injuries among pedestrians have fallen in recent years, but still remain public health problems as about 5000 pedestrians die each year. Because pedestrians have been shown to be responsible or partially responsible for many of the crashes in which they are involved, we sought to assess the relationship of distracted walking and performing routine cautionary behaviors of pedestrians crossing a busy street in a southwestern city at an intersection, adjacent a university. The behavior of 866 individuals was recorded by trained observers as pedestrians walked across a 105-foot wide street served by a stop light and zebra painted crosswalk. We defined distracted pedestrians as those wearing headphones, talking on a cell phone, eating, drinking, smoking or talking as they crossed the street. Caution was measured by looking left and right, and entering the crosswalk only when the white proceed light was illuminated. We found that only 13.5% of walkers looked left and right and entered the crosswalk while the white light was flashing. Approximately 20% of walkers were distracted as they crossed the street. Regression analysis indicated that distraction was negatively, but weakly associated with displaying cautious pedestrian behaviors. Because traffic lights were routinely ignored and lack of caution was predicted by distraction, we suggest that inexpensive education efforts target pedestrians near college campuses.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Safety
  • Walking / psychology*