Oct 16, 2020

This presentation is sponsored by ITS-Davis’ partnership with the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center.


Distracted Pedestrians: Myth or Menace?


1:40pm - 3:00pm


Remote instruction


Some observers view distracted walking as a menace, while others contend that concern is overblown. Understanding these competing frames about pedestrian safety is essential because interpretive frames influence how we try to solve problems. In this study, we survey transportation practitioners to gauge how concerned they are about distracted walking, assess whether windshield bias and professional training influence concern, and determine whether concern influences preferred policy solutions for reducing pedestrian deaths. One third of transportation practitioners surveyed view distracted walking as a large problem, estimating that it was responsible for 40 percent of pedestrian deaths. Practitioners were more concerned about distracted walking if they primarily use a car or spend little time in pedestrian areas (windshield bias) or if they work in engineering or public health (professional training). Most importantly, the distracted walking frame does indeed shape policy solutions. Practitioners concerned about distracted walking were more likely to endorse individual-level solutions (like educational campaigns) and were less likely support reducing vehicle speeds. Concern about distracted walking detracts attention from more deadly risk factors, more effective policy approaches, and, most importantly, is inconsistent with the ethos of making streets safe for all users, including children, the elderly, and vision impaired people. Instead of focusing on educational campaigns, practitioners should focus their pedestrian safety efforts on the biggest risk factors and the most effective solutions.

Biographical Sketch

Kelcie Ralph is an Assistant Professor of Transportation Planning and Policy at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers. In her research, Dr. Ralph works to identify and correct common misperceptions about travel behavior and safety to improve transportation planning outcomes.

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