The effects of road environment complexity and age on pedestrian’s visual attention and crossing behavior

Work on pedestrian distraction co-authored with Hagai Tapiro and Yisrael Parmet

Abstract

Introduction: Little is known how the characteristics of the environment affect pedestrians’ road crossing behavior. Method: In this work, the effect of typical urban visual clutter created by objects and elements in the road proximity (e.g., billboards) on adults and children (aged 9–13) road crossing behavior was examined in a controlled laboratory environment, utilizing virtual reality scenarios projected on a large dome screen. Results: Divided into three levels of visual load, results showed that high visual load affected children’s and adults’ road crossing behavior and visual attention. The main effect on participants’ crossing decisions was seen in missed crossing opportunities. Children and adults missed more opportunities to cross the road when exposed to more cluttered road environments. An interaction with age was found in the dispersion of the visual attention measure. Children, 9–10 and 11–13 years old, had a wider spread of gazes across the scene when the environment was highly loaded—an effect not seen with adults. However, unexpectedly, no other indication of the deterring effect was found in the current study. Still, according to the results, it is reasonable to assume that busier road environments can be more hazardous to adult and child pedestrians. Practical Applications: In that context, it is important to further investigate the possible distracting effect of causal objects in the road environment on pedestrians, and especially children. This knowledge can help to create better safety guidelines for children and assist urban planners in creating safer urban environments.

 

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