Pedestrians, vehicles, and cell phones

Accid Anal Prev. 2010 Mar;42(2):589-94. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2009.10.004. Epub 2009 Nov 5.


With cellular phones and portable music players becoming a staple in everyday life, questions have arisen regarding the attentional deficits that might occur when such devices are used while performing other tasks. Here, we used a street-crossing task in an immersive virtual environment to test how this sort of divided attention affects pedestrian behavior when crossing a busy street. Thirty-six participants navigated through a series of unsigned intersections by walking on a manual treadmill in a virtual environment. While crossing, participants were undistracted, engaged in a hands free cell phone conversation, or listening to music on an iPod. Pedestrians were less likely to successfully cross the road when conversing on a cell phone than when listening to music, even though they took more time to initiate their crossing when conversing on a cell phone ( approximately 1.5s). This success rate difference was driven largely by failures to cross the road in the allotted trial time period (30s), suggesting that when conversing on a cell phone pedestrians are less likely to recognize and act on crossing opportunities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Young Adult