Performance of ground-level signal detection when using a phone while walking

Accid Anal Prev. 2021 Mar:151:105909. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2020.105909. Epub 2020 Dec 25.


Ground-level traffic lights or safety signs have been introduced recently as a prevention measure for smartphone-related pedestrian accidents. However, quantitative evaluation of smartphone users' detection performance during distracted walking has been scarce. A laboratory experiment was conducted to evaluate the performance of detecting ground-level visual cues during the concurrent use of a smartphone while walking. Thirty-eight young smartphone users performed ground-level visual cue detection trials, 1) while walking upright on a treadmill without using a smartphone; 2) when conducting one-handed browsing while walking; and, 3) when conducting two-handed texting while walking. Visual cues were presented on the ground at 24 locations by a ceiling-mounted projector, and participants were asked to respond verbally when they perceived the appearance of each cue. Study results show that the concurrent use of a smartphone decreased the detection rate significantly (p < 0.05) from 93.5 % to 76.3∼74.1 %, and increased the reaction time from 0.90 s to 1.04∼1.15 s. Among the 24 cue locations, cues that were presented closer to participants were detected significantly (p < 0.05) more often and faster than cues that were shown at further locations. The results of this laboratory-based study imply that the ground-level signals might not be detected well by smartphone users, specifically when they were conducting more demanding tasks such as texting while walking. However, the laboratory conditions were confined to a specific usage environment; therefore, future research should be focused on the situation awareness of smartphone users under various usage scenarios and more realistic environments.

Keywords: Attention; Distraction; In-ground traffic light; Pedestrian; Texting.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Awareness*
  • Cell Phone Use*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smartphone*
  • Text Messaging
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Young Adult