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Plight of the distracted pedestrian: a research synthesis and meta-analysis of mobile phone use on crossing behaviour

Abstract

Background Pedestrians are commonly involved in vehicle collisions that result in injuries and fatalities. Pedestrian distraction has become an emerging safety issue as more pedestrians use their mobile phones while walking and crossing the street.

Objectives The purpose of this research synthesis and meta-analysis is to determine the extent to which cell phone conversation, text messaging or browsing, and listening to music affect a number of common pedestrian behavioural measures.

Methods A keyword search was developed with a subject librarian that used MeSH terms from selected databases including PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, Medline and TRID. Supplemental searches were also conducted with Google Scholar and Mendeley.

Effect size coding Thirty-three studies met inclusion criteria and were subjected to data extraction. Statistical information (ie, M, SD, SE, 95% CI, OR, F, t) was extracted to generate standardised mean difference effect sizes (ie, Cohen’s d) and r effect sizes.

Results Fourteen experimental studies were ultimately included in an N-weighted meta-analysis (k=81 effect sizes), and eight observational studies were included in a qualitative overview. Both mobile phone conversation and text messaging increased rates of hits and close calls. Texting decreased rates of looking left and right prior to and/or during street crossing. As might be expected, text messaging was generally found to have the most detrimental effect on multiple behavioural measures.

Limitations A variety of study quality issues limit the interpretation and generalisation of the results, which are described, as are future study measurement and methods improvements.

  • pedestrian
  • distraction
  • metanalysis
  • systematic review
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