Text messaging increases risky street-crossing behavior: study

December 19, 2012

Seattle – Nearly one-third of pedestrians engage in distracting activities while crossing intersections, with text messaging representing the biggest risk to their safety, finds a new study from the University of Washington.

Of the 1,102 pedestrians that researchers observed at 20 high-risk intersections in 2012, 29.8 percent performed activities such as listening to music, text messaging and using a cell phone while crossing the street, according to the study abstract.

Texting pedestrians were 3.9 times more likely than non-distracted pedestrians to behave unsafely, including disobeying traffic signals, crossing mid-intersection or failing to look both ways.

Distraction due to texting or talking on a phone or in person also was associated with taking longer to cross an intersection. For text messaging, the difference was an extra 1.87 seconds, researchers found. However, people listening to music actually crossed 0.54 seconds faster than non-distracted pedestrians.

The study was published online Dec. 13 in the journal Injury Prevention.