Texting and Walking: A Controlled Field Study of Crossing Behaviours and Inattentional Blindness in Taiwan

Texting and Walking: A Controlled Field Study of Crossing Behaviours and Inattentional Blindness in Taiwan

C.W. Pai

Institute of Injury Prevention and Control, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan

Available online: 
31 January 2017
| Citation



Recent handsets with touchscreens, as well as more advanced features including multimedia and mobile applications (apps), cause increased cognitive distraction and reduced situation awareness to a greater degree. Recently concerns have been raised about how texting, app use and listening to music affect pedestrian safety. The current research attempts to investigate the effects of phone use (talking, texting and listening to music) on the street-crossing behaviours of pedestrians. A controlled field study using video cameras was conducted. In the study, pedestrian crossing behaviours (e.g. crossing time, sudden stops, looking both ways before crossing, disobeying traffic signals) were recorded/observed. Pedestrians were classified into two groups: experimental group (talking, texting, listening to music) and control group (no phone use). Pedestrians’ inattentional blindness was also examined by evaluating whether they saw an unusual object (i.e. a clown) nearby. The personal attributes and handset characteristics (e.g. unlimited Internet access, screen size and smartphone) were used as independent variables. The results indicate that the proportions of unsafe crossing behaviours (e.g. sudden stops, disobeying traffic signals, not looking both ways before crossing) were higher among distracted individuals and more pronounced among those using instant-messaging apps. These instant-message app users were the least likely to see the clown, and music listeners were the least likely to hear the horn that the clown will be honking. Contributing factors to unsafe behaviours include being a student, having a phone screen of 5 inches or larger and having unlimited third-generation Internet access.


crossing behaviour, pedestrian safety, texting and walking


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