Pedestrians, vehicles, and cell phones

Mark B. Neider, Jason S. McCarley, James A. Crowell, Henry Kaczmarski, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With cellular phones and portable music players becoming a staple in everyday life, questions have arisen regarding the attentional deficits that might occur when such devices are used while performing other tasks. Here, we used a street-crossing task in an immersive virtual environment to test how this sort of divided attention affects pedestrian behavior when crossing a busy street. Thirty-six participants navigated through a series of unsigned intersections by walking on a manual treadmill in a virtual environment. While crossing, participants were undistracted, engaged in a hands free cell phone conversation, or listening to music on an iPod. Pedestrians were less likely to successfully cross the road when conversing on a cell phone than when listening to music, even though they took more time to initiate their crossing when conversing on a cell phone (∼1.5 s). This success rate difference was driven largely by failures to cross the road in the allotted trial time period (30 s), suggesting that when conversing on a cell phone pedestrians are less likely to recognize and act on crossing opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-594
Number of pages6
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Attention
  • Cell phones
  • Distraction
  • Dual-task
  • Pedestrian safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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