Pedestrians: The risk of distraction posed by smartphones

01 Apr 2016 The Human Factor
One of the biggest factors when it comes to people becoming distracted while out and about are modern communication devices – above all, smartphones. And this applies to pedestrians, too. To find out just how many pedestrians actually become distracted, DEKRA accident researchers conducted traffic observations involving almost 14,000 pedestrians. The teams conducted their research in six European cities – Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Stockholm. In the city centers, they watched pedestrians crossing roads and logged the number of people using smartphones.
The overall result from all cities and all age groups showed that 7.9% of pedestrians wrote text messages while crossing the road, another 2.6% were making a call. Around 5% were wearing earplugs or headphones without speaking, so were probably listening to music. As expected, younger pedestrians tended to use their smartphone more frequently than older ones: Among the over-46s, a good 5.6% were writing text messages; among the under-35s, this figure was more than 9%. As far as listening to music is concerned, the highest value – 7.5% – was among those aged 26 to 35. Gender-specific differences were clearly observed. While more than 12% of female pedestrians aged between 12 and 25 were writing text messages while crossing the road, the figure among male pedestrians in the same age group was just 4.8%. This figure was 10.8% among 26- to 35-year-old females and 8.0% among males in the same age group. In contrast, males listen to music more frequently. Among pedestrians aged between 26 and 35, for example, 10.3% of males and only 4.8% of females listened to music.
In a city-by-city comparison, the differences are minor. The most striking finding here is that in Amsterdam, smartphone use across all age groups was less frequent than in any of the other cities assessed.
DEKRA experts recommend everyone – including pedestrians – to keep their eyes on the road and not get distracted by smartphones. Overall, the traffic observation showed that a good 83% of pedestrians stick to this rule.