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Accid Anal Prev. 2020 Jan;134:105346. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2019.105346. Epub 2019 Nov 9.

Pedestrians distracted by their smartphone: Are in-ground flashing lights catching their attention? A laboratory study.

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Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, Australia; Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation, Australia. Electronic address:
Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, Australia; Stockholm University, Stress Research Institute, Sweden.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT), School of Optometry and Vision Science, Australia.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, Australia.


Pedestrian distraction is a growing road safety concern worldwide. While there are currently no studies linking distraction and pedestrian crash risk, distraction has been shown to increase risky behaviours in pedestrians, for example, through reducing visual scanning before traversing an intersection. Illuminated in-ground Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) embedded into pathways are an emerging solution to address the growing distraction problem associated with mobile use while walking. The current study sought to determine if such an intervention was effective in attracting the attention of distracted pedestrians. We conducted a controlled laboratory study (N = 24) to evaluate whether pedestrians detected the activation of flashing LEDs when distracted by a smartphone more accurately and efficiently when the lights were located on the floor compared to a control position on the wall. Eye gaze movements via an eye tracker and behavioural responses via response times assessed the detection of these flashing LEDs. Distracted participants were able to detect the activation of the floor and wall-mounted LEDs with accuracies above 90%. The visual and auditory distraction tasks increased reaction times by 143 and 124 ms, respectively. Even when distracted, performance improved with floor LEDs close to participants, with reaction time improvements by 43 and 159 ms for the LEDs 2 and 1 ms away from the participant respectively. The addition of floor LED lights resulted in a performance similar to the one observed for wall-mounted LEDs in the non-distracted condition. Moreover, participants did not necessarily need to fixate on the LEDs to detect their activation, thus were likely to have detected them using their peripheral vision. The findings suggest that LEDs embedded in pathways are likely to be effective at attracting the attention of distracted pedestrians. Further research needs to be conducted in the field to confirm these findings, and to evaluate the actual effects on behaviour under real-world conditions.


Crossing; Distraction; Mobile phone; Pedestrian; Reaction times; Road intervention; Standing and walking


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