Women influence for safer roads

…Pedestrian distractions while walking in traffic

ROAD Safety agencies have done a lot in terms of creating awareness regarding the risks of distractions to drivers and neglect to focus on the distractions facing pedestrians, as well. Many road crashes are also as a result of pedestrian inattentiveness. A lot of pedestrians do not pay attention resulting in near crashes and even road vehicle crashes.

Many of these crashes occur when the pedestrian crosses the street and often seem to result from pedestrian inattentiveness. Thus, when pedestrians are using mobile phones, 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 I-pods.

Many current road engineering technologies are focused on helping pedestrians more aware of their surroundings. Having an understanding of how distractions affect pedestrian intersection is important in evaluating such technologies. We will focus on these dangers to provide safety advice for our pedestrians.

Road crashes involving inattentive pedestrians

With the increase in the number of cellular phones worldwide, it is worrisome to know that it’s an added cause of potential distraction for pedestrians who multitask while walking to their destination.

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 the use of personal electronics may be the main ingredient in a recipe for disaster especially around schools, campuses etc. Accident data confirming this dilemma is hard to find as the records usually only describe death or injury from “pedestrian distraction”. Many accident victims also refuse to admit that they were distracted when they got into the accident.

What we do have is research studies – a team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that children who talk on cellphones while crossing streets are 43 percent more likely to be hit by a car than when their phones are turned off.

By making the choice not to engage in distractive activities while crossing the street, pedestrians can make intersections and crosswalks safer for themselves. Regardless of the safety technologies available at a given crosswalk, one clear way to reduce potential accidents due to inattention is to have both pedestrians and drivers choose not to engage in activities that may distract them.


Distractions to pedestrians walking in traffic

An assumption by road engineers is that pedestrians will allocate appropriate attention to their surroundings, thus allowing these features to have a meaningful impact on their behaviour. A diverse set of circumstances and activities may, however, result in pedestrians not allocating appropriate attention to their surroundings.


What are these distractions inhibiting situational awareness?

1. Cellphone conversations

2. Text messaging

3. Listening to music (I-pod)

4. Looking at something other than the direction of travel

5. Waving away an insect

6. Conversations with friends

7. Eating on the run

8. Looking at one’s watch

9. Attempting to find some thing in a backpack or luggage

10. Reading a book or news paper

11. Being lost in thought.


Safety Advice:

It is important to note that mobile phones offer convenience and safeguards to families, including use in emergencies, but they also may pose risk. We need to balance the positives with better knowledge on how cognitive distraction from mobile phone use reduces situation awareness, increases unsafe behaviour, putting pedestrians at greater risk for accidents, and crime victimization.

Current crosswalk engineering countermeasures focus on speed control as well as maintaining a separation between pedestrians and vehicles. Examples of common infrastructure countermeasures include roundabouts, speed bumps, pedestrian refuge islands, multilane stop signs and in-pavement flashing lights.

Examples of common pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow countermeasures include reduced speed limits, leading pedestrian intervals, exclusive pedestrian phases, adequate traffic signal timing and pedestrian prompting devices. These would, however, be of no value if our pedestrians are not attentive to these measures and the risks they are aimed at avoiding!

Road Safety Tips for pedestrians in traffic:

Always be alert and watch for traffic

Just as drivers should limit cellphone use while driving, pedestrians – especially child pedestrians – should limit cellphone use while crossing streets

If you’re going to talk on cellular phones, stay stationary

Don’t walk and talk on mobile devices in traffic

Just stay stationary for a minute or call them back. Your life is more important than the conversation

Be fully aware of your surroundings, don’t let the music take your attention away from the sound of oncoming vehicles, hooting or sirens

Be especially attentive near level crossings

Do not assume that you have the right of way and that cars will stop for you

Pay attention to warnings from gadget manufacturers and mobile providers on the dangers of using their products while crossing roads.

It is important to note that looking is not always seeing, and distraction caused by any of the above activities could result in pedestrians either failing to look or looking but failing to see. The looked-but-failed-to-see phenomenon is not new and is not limited to pedestrians. – Arrive Alive


For more Road Safety tips and information send us an email hileni@aa-namibia.com or call Hileni Tjivikua at +264 811279321. Join the Women in Road Safety Program today! And make a different in your region.