Nav: Home

Distracted pedestrians walk slower and are less steady on their feet: UBC study

July 31, 2018

Distracted drivers are responsible for more collisions in Canada than impaired drivers, but with smartphones becoming ubiquitous, distracted walking is also on the rise. Now, University of British Columbia engineers have analyzed just how mobile device use affects pedestrians, and their findings could help develop safer roads and autonomous cars in the future.

In a study published recently in Transportation Research Record, the researchers used automated video analysis to examine the movements and walking behaviour of pedestrians at a busy four-way intersection in Kamloops, B.C. The engineers mounted three cameras at the intersection, capturing the movements of 357 pedestrians over a two-day period.

"We found that more than a third of pedestrians were distracted by their cellphones, texting and reading or talking and listening," said lead author Rushdi Alsaleh, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at UBC. "Distracted pedestrians had more trouble maintaining their walking speed and gait and took longer to cross the road, increasing the potential for conflict with vehicles."

The movements of the distracted pedestrians also differed, depending on how they were using their devices. Those who were texting or reading took shorter steps without slowing their step frequency, while those who were talking on their phone took slower steps without changing the length of their strides. In addition, pedestrians distracted by texting or reading had more unstable movements and disruptions as they walked, compared to those conversing on their phones.

"When it came to interactions with vehicles, distracted pedestrians acted differently than those who were not distracted. To avoid oncoming vehicles, they reduced their speeds by adjusting their step frequency, while non-distracted pedestrians adjusted both their step frequency and the length of their steps," said study co-author Mohamed Zaki, a research associate in the department of civil engineering at UBC.

These findings are key considerations for the development of safe driverless cars, according to researchers. By programming an autonomous vehicle to recognize distracted pedestrians from their walking patterns, it will be able to anticipate pedestrian behaviours and take the appropriate evasive actions to avoid an accident.

"Our study shows that using automated video analysis can map pedestrian behaviour more accurately than manual or semi-automated methods. Most pedestrian computer models do not account for the unusual walking behaviour of pedestrians distracted by phones," said senior study author Tarek Sayed, a civil engineering professor who heads the transportation research group at UBC.

"Our research is focused on explaining how accidents occur on roads by better modelling the behaviour of people and cars on the road. We hope that our methods can be used to calibrate pedestrian simulation programs more accurately, helping planners to build safer roads and engineers to design smarter autonomous vehicles."
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Reading Articles:

Socioeconomic background linked to reading improvement
MIT neuroscientists have found that dyslexic children from lower income families responded much better to a summer reading program than children from a higher socioeconomic background.
Reading the genetic code depends on context
University of Utah biologists now suggest that connecting amino acids to make proteins in ribosomes, the cell's protein factories, may in fact be influenced by sets of three triplets -- a 'triplet of triplets' that provide crucial context for the ribosome.
When it comes to reading, kindergarten is the new first grade
A new nationwide study has found that children entering first grade in 2013 had significantly better reading skills than similar students had just 12 years earlier.
Scientists predict reading ability from DNA alone
Researchers from King's College London have used a genetic scoring technique to predict reading performance throughout school years from DNA alone.
Brain activity can be used to predict reading success up to 2 years in advance
By measuring brainwaves, it is possible to predict what a child's reading level will be years in advance, according to research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
To understand others' minds, 'being' them beats reading them
We tend to believe that people telegraph how they're feeling through facial expressions and body language and we only need to watch them to know what they're experiencing -- but new research shows we'd get a much better idea if we put ourselves in their shoes instead.
New study finds reading can help with chronic pain
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, The Reader and the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, and funded by the British Academy, has found that shared reading (SR) can be a useful therapy for chronic pain sufferers.
'In 50 years, reading will be much easier -- for computers and humans alike'
At a time when even something as fundamental as reading has been co-opted by digital brains, teaching computers to read has become a monumental task.
Aging bonobos in the wild could use reading glasses too
As people age, they often find that it's more difficult to see things up close.
Study finds brain connections key to reading
A new study from MIT reveals that a brain region dedicated to reading has connections necessary for that skill even before children learn to read.

Related Reading Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#514 Arctic Energy (Rebroadcast)
This week we're looking at how alternative energy works in the arctic. We speak to Louie Azzolini and Linda Todd from the Arctic Energy Alliance, a non-profit helping communities reduce their energy usage and transition to more affordable and sustainable forms of energy. And the lessons they're learning along the way can help those of us further south.