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Texting while walking increases risk of getting hit by car: UBC study

Engineers found that distracted pedestrians had more trouble maintaining walking speed and gait

Distracted drivers are responsible for many collisions in B.C., but a new study is pointing the finger at the risk of distracted walking.

A new study out of UBC on Tuesday suggests people who walk and text at the same time walk more slowly and less steadily, increasing the risk of getting hit by a vehicle.

Engineers used automated video analysis to examine the movements and walking behaviour of pedestrians at a busy four-way intersection in Kamloops. Through three mounted cameras, they analyzed 357 pedestrians over two days.

“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.

“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.

The results can also help keep pedestrians safe when it comes to driverless cars, Alsaleh said.

An autonomous vehicle can be programmed to recognize distracted pedestrians from their walking patterns, he said, and appropriate evasive actions to avoid an accident.

“Our research is focused on explaining how accidents occur on roads by better modelling the behaviour of people and cars on the road,” said Tarek Sayed, a civil engineering professor at UBC.

“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.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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