JAF researches hazards of distracted walking & cycling

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The Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) in collaboration with the Aichi University of Technology has conducted experimental research to find out the dangers of smartphone use while walking or riding a bicycle. The research is funded by the FIA Foundation through the FIA Road Safety Grants Programme.

JAF’s research found that people using smartphones while walking or cycling focus completely on the screen which distracts them and increases the risk of serious accidents including collisions, skipping traffic lights and not being aware of their surroundings. Professor Kazuhiro Kozuka of Aichi University of Technology who oversaw the research said: “When people use smartphones, their eyes end up glued to the screen and it becomes more difficult to remain aware of their surroundings.” With ever-increasing use of smartphone, the problem of distracted cycling or walking has amplified in the recent years.

Separate experiments were conducted to assess the impact of use of smartphones for cycling and walking. The walking test was conducted at a crowded pedestrian crossing in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s busiest, while the cycling test took place in Tsukuba Driving School in Ibaraki Prefecture. The participants for these experiments comprised of two men and two women. Each participant wore an eye-tracking device and each conducted two tests one while using a smartphone and one without. The lines of sight of each of the participants were compared and their movement was recorded using video.

The results of the test for walking showed that while using smartphone, there was collision with pedestrians and the participant failed to notice children crossing roads, the results from the line of sight further concluded that eyes of the smartphone users focused on the screen. Without the smartphone the line of the sight tended to focus in the direction of the travel and to the left and the right.

For the cyclists, using smartphones, it was observed that the cyclists collided with a mannequin and even cycled across a red light. For line of sight comparisons, like for the experiments for walking, showed that line of the sight was generally focused on smartphone for those using smartphone. Without the smartphone, sight focused on traffic signal on the right direction of travel.

Given the pertinence of the issue, the test results will be used as teaching materials in traffic safety classes conducted by JAF and driving schools, to discourage people from using smartphone while cycling or walking on roads. JAF’s appeal to pedestrians and cyclists about the dangers of being distracted by smartphones while walking or cycling has been widely acclaimed. The appeal was quoted in various media reports immediately after the research findings was published. JAF also does a great deal of work to discourage distracted driving by motorists.

Click here for more information on the project