Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Observed Compliance Versus Stated Understanding of Pedestrian Crossing Laws

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Florida has consistently had one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country. NHTSA data indicate that Florida has had one of the four highest pedestrian fatality rates since 1994. In response, the Florida Department of Transportation launched the Bicycle–Pedestrian Focused Initiative to increase awareness of and decrease fatalities among bicyclists and pedestrians in Florida. A study conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida tracked the crossing behavior of individuals at high crash locations and then asked them about their understanding of pedestrian traffic laws. The results showed that most of the people surveyed about the traffic laws knew the correct answer and followed the law. The study found that 82% of the people interviewed crossed at the crosswalk and correctly answered the question about whether it was illegal to cross midblock; 57% said that they pressed the pedestrian push button when it was available and also were observed to press it; 64% of people were observed to start to cross on green pedestrian time and also said they did so when asked. Further, the study compared the behavior of people exposed to the safety campaign before the survey and also how their behavior changed when they were first asked the questions and then were observed during their crossing. The data showed that people exhibited safer behavior when they were asked the questions first and observed to cross afterward. The study showed results for several attributes, including crossing location, pedestrian signal indication while crossing, pedestrian push button use, and distraction.

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Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, v. 2519, p. 165-171.