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Katherine Olson; Inattentional blindness: Driver compliance rates at pedestrian crosswalks. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):460. doi: 10.1167/8.6.460.
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Globally, driver and pedestrian safety is of great concern because motor vehicle collisions cause more than 11 million deaths or permanent disabilities each year (Murray & Lopez, 1996). Harborview Injury Prevention Research (1997) found that approximately one-half of all fatalities involving motor vehicles in the United States involved pedestrians. In the United States alone, almost 75,000 pedestrians were either killed or injured from a motor vehicle in the year 2003. Throughout Western, Eastern, and developing countries, many of the motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians occur at crosswalks. In Sweden, the 1996 SCB accident statistics reveal that almost 40% of all report pedestrian related motor vehicle collisions occur at crosswalks (as cited in Varhelyi, 1998). Although there has been an overall decrease in motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians, there has been an increase of motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians at crosswalks (NHTSA, 2001). This study looked to evaluate if any of a given number of variables influenced driver stopping rates at mid-block crosswalks; with and without amber flashing warning beacons. To test driver responsiveness, pedestrian confederates of different gender or visibility — i.e. wearing different colored clothing — were placed at each type of crosswalk. After each of the 810 driver encounters, two observers scored drivers and noted variables such as driver gender, cell phone usage, and presence of passengers. Although driver compliance rates in general were overwhelmingly poor, male drivers were more likely to stop than female drivers. A relationship between crosswalk type and driver compliance was also found; more drivers stopped for pedestrians without the flashing amber warning beacon than with it. Results of this study indicate that in part, low compliance rates could be influenced by inattentional blindness in drivers. Because injury and fatality rates against pedestrians remain high, future attempts to understand driver behavior are valuable.
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