Joseph Kearney
The University of Iowa
Computer Science
Jodie Plumert
The University of Iowa
Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences




Do Prohibitive Warnings Improve Road-crossing Safety for Texting and Non-texting Pedestrians?

Pedestrian injuries and deaths caused by collisions with motor vehicles are a major health problem in the United States (NHTSA, 2015). In 2013 alone, 4,735 pedestrians were killed and 66,000 were injured in traffic crashes. Both field observations and controlled experiments indicate that distraction from mobile device use is a significant risk factor for pedestrian injuries. Despite the importance of the problem, relatively little is known about effective interventions to reduce the harmful effects mobile device use on pedestrian road-crossing behavior. The overarching goal of this project is to investigate how mobile devices can be used to assist pedestrians in making safe road crossings. The project will develop a cell phone app that warns pedestrians when they initiate unsafe road crossings and test the app in state-of-the-art pedestrian simulator. The project builds on first Safer-Sim grant that investigated permissive alerts (ones that indicate when it is safe to cross). The project found that texting pedestrians who were given permissive alerts took safer gaps than those without these alerts. However, they also paid much less attention to the traffic, relying on the alert system to identify when it was safe to cross. This project will develop and test prohibitive alerts (ones that indicate when it is unsafe to cross). The project hypothesize that prohibitive alerts will lead to safer gap choices for texting pedestrians without the decrease in visual attention to traffic that we found with permissive alerts. The results will inform the design of Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communication systems based on Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) technologies being incorporated into vehicles. This project will promote multidisciplinary training by providing collaborative research experiences to a diverse set of undergraduate and graduate students in psychological science and computer science.