Distracted walking: Examining the extent to pedestrian safety problems
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Pedestrians, much like drivers, have always been engaged in multi-tasking like using hand-held devices, listening to music, snacking, or reading while walking. The effects are similar to those experienced by distracted drivers. However, distracted walking has not received similar policies and effective interventions as distracted driving to improve pedestrian safety. This study reviewed the state-of-practice on policies, campaigns, available data, identified research needs, and opportunities pertaining to distracted walking. A comprehensive review of literature revealed that some of the agencies/organizations disseminate useful information about certain distracting activities that pedestrians should avoid while walking to improve their safety. Various walking safety rules/tips have been given, such as not wearing headphones or talking on a cell phone while crossing a street, keeping the volume down, hanging up the phone while walking, being aware of traffic, and avoiding distractions like walking with texting. The majority of the past observational-based and experimental-based studies reviewed in this study on distracted walking is in agreement that there is a positive correlation between distraction and unsafe walking behavior. However, limitations of the existing crash data suggest that distracted walking may not be a severe threat to the public health. Current pedestrian crash data provide insufficient information for researchers to examine the extent to which distracted walking causes and/or contributes to actual pedestrian safety problems.