Minimizing Distracted Pedestrians in Crosswalks at Signalized Intersections

Distracted pedestrian injuries and deaths at intersections have increased sharply in recent years, especially among young adults. Each year, over 68,000 pedestrians are injured, and 1,400 pedestrians are killed in collisions with motor vehicles at intersections. One of the main causes of these accidents is distracted walking, such as texting or talking on the phone while crossing the street. To address this problem, several lawmakers across the United States are proposing plans to reduce distracted pedestrians, especially in crosswalks at signalized intersections. One proposal is to outlaw pedestrian texting while walking on roadways. This would help to ensure that pedestrians are paying attention to their surroundings and are less likely to be involved in an accident. This study aims to identify innovative ways to inform pedestrians at signalized intersections about the dangers of distraction and dissuade them from the usage of electronic devices while using crosswalks. The study will identify signage, design, and informational programs that can be used to mitigate the incidence of pedestrian distraction. The project team will conduct an extensive review of the literature concerning the existing innovations, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), and traditional countermeasures such as high visibility signs, rapid-flashing beacons, audio-visual cues, etc. that are currently being used to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks. Specific focus will be concentrated on the reduction of distractions amongst pedestrians at signalized crosswalks. Furthermore, a comprehensive survey will be conducted to understand individual perceptions of safety among road users, including pedestrians. The project team will identify several signalized intersections in the District of Columbia with high pedestrian volume and formulate a series of questions to capture what pedestrians consider to be distracting at those intersections. Relevant demographic data will also be collected to understand different perspectives of pedestrians. In addition, the road geometry of selected intersections such as crosswalk length, number of lanes, etc., will also be noted to correlate the pedestrian’s perception of safety at different types of intersections.

Howard University
Principal Investigator: 
Stephen Arhin, Ph.D.
PI Contact Information:

Howard University, Washington D.C.

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

$175,000 (federal) and $148,777 (non-federal)

Total Project Cost: 
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
June 2023 to May 2024
Implementation of Research Outcomes: 

The information gathered from the tasks listed in the project description will be used as input to develop a framework to assist appropriate agencies or authorities in selecting the best approaches to tackle the problem of distracted pedestrians under different scenarios. In addition, the survey data will also be used to develop mathematical models that can help predict the perception of pedestrian safety at signalized intersections. The predictive mathematical models are intended to complement the framework. Multiple regression analysis will also be conducted to determine different variables that affect the perception of safety for pedestrians or identify different roadway improvement solutions.

By collecting the necessary data, the expected outputs for the research project are as follows:

  • Increased enforcement to prohibit and reduce pedestrian texting and other distractions.
  • Engineering improvements to design, signage, and increased safety for pedestrians.
  • Educational and awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers of distracted walking.
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

The framework and mathematical models developed from the study's data will provide a structured approach for appropriate agencies and authorities to make informed decisions regarding pedestrian safety measures. This could lead to a more effective allocation of resources and targeted interventions. Hence, the main outcome of the project will be the improvement of overall safety through a reduced number of distracted pedestrians and pedestrian injury or fatalities in urban areas. Other likely outcomes and impacts include increased enforcement measures and the implementation of new regulations and policies to prohibit or reduce pedestrian distractions. There can also be engineering improvements like modified crosswalk designs and improved traffic management systems aimed at enhancing pedestrian safety. Finally, by enhancing pedestrian safety, the study will contribute to an improved quality of life for individuals in communities, and reduce property damage and potentially healthcare associated with pedestrian accidents, leading to overall economic benefit.

Project Number: 



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