Investigating Pedestrian Distraction By Phone At Intersection Crossings, Safety Implications And Potential Treatments

Date of Award



Civil and Construction Engineering

First Advisor

Valerian Kwigizile, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jun-Seok Oh, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ron Van Houten, Ph.D.


Distraction, pedestrian, phone, safety, technology, treatment


Road user distraction is a major safety concern. The issue is not only for drivers, but also for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. Every year people are involved in potential and real crashes due to being distracted while walking/crossing streets. Although there are several ways by which pedestrians are distracted, phone use while crossing streets is among the riskier and growing behaviors. Crossing an intersection, especially those with heavy traffic, requires full attention from the individual. Inattentiveness to traffic while on a phone call, texting, web-surfing, listening to music before crossing a street can lead to a fatal crash. However, people seem to believe that engaging in a phone activity while crossing the street has little or no effect on their safety. Although transportation/safety agencies are working towards mitigating the distraction issue, this risky habit seems to grow with time and the need for more potential solutions is real. Thus, this study not only focuses on the investigation of pedestrian distraction by phone while crossing the street, but also investigates the treatments that have been implemented to mitigate this growing issue. Furthermore, this study proposes a potential treatment that focuses on addressing the limitations of the treatments that have been implemented. To carry out the study, pedestrian observations at selected intersections, perception surveys on implemented treatments, and a laboratory experiment on a proposed treatment were performed. Finally, descriptive statistics and statistical analysis were performed to draw conclusions from findings. Results from this study can be used by transportation/safety engineers/planners, law enforcement agencies and the general public to mitigate the issue of pedestrians’ distraction by phone when crossing streets.

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