Mobile telephones, distracted attention, and pedestrian safety

Jack Nasar, Peter Hecht, Richard Wener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Driver distraction is a major cause of traffic accidents, with mobile telephones as a key source of distraction. In two studies, we examined distraction of pedestrians associated with mobile phone use. The first had 60 participants walk along a prescribed route, with half of them conversing on a mobile phone, and the other half holding the phone awaiting a potential call, which never came. Comparison of the performance of the groups in recalling objects planted along the route revealed that pedestrians conversing recalled fewer objects than did those not conversing. The second study had three observers record pedestrian behavior of mobile phone users, i-pod users, and pedestrians with neither one at three crosswalks. Mobile phone users crossed unsafely into oncoming traffic significantly more than did either of the other groups. For pedestrians as with drivers, cognitive distraction from mobile phone use reduces situation awareness, increases unsafe behavior, putting pedestrians at greater risk for accidents, and crime victimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-75
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Distraction
  • Mobile telephones
  • Pedestrians
  • Safety
  • Situation awareness
  • i-Pod

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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