Using Bluetooth Beacon Technology to Reduce Distracted Pedestrian Behavior Over 4,800 American pedestrians die annually (CDC, 2017), a figure that is current increasing. One hypothesized reason for the increasing trend in pedestrian injuries and deaths is the role of mobile technology in distracting both pedestrians and drivers. Existing behavioral interventions to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior are few. We propose to develop and then evaluate Bluetooth beacon technology as a means to alert and warn pedestrians when they are approaching dangerous intersections, reminding them to attend to the traffic environment and cross the street safely rather than engaging with mobile technology. Our proposed research will be conducted in three phases: (a) technology development, (b) internal testing, and (c) crossover research trial to evaluate efficacy of the program. Bluetooth beacons are very small (about the size of a dime) and inexpensive (~$20 range) devices that broadcast information unidirectionally (beacon to smartphone) within a closed proximal network. We propose placing beacons at intersection corners (e.g., on signposts) frequently trafficked by urban college students. The beacons will transmit to an app installed on users? smartphones, signaling users to attend to their environment and cross the street safely. The app will be developed to be flexible based on user preferences (e.g., visual warnings, aural warnings, vibrations, phone screen frozen); for research purposes, the app also will download data concerning the users? behavior while crossing the street (e.g., user stops using phone, puts phone in pocket, text-messages, leaves music playing, etc.). Iterative internal pilot-testing will improve the app, and then we will conduct a small pilot study (N=30) to gather further data for refinement. Following this, a crossover trial will evaluate the app with a sample of 411 young adults whose behavior is monitored for: (a) 3 weeks without the app being activated, (b) 3 weeks with the app activated, and then (c) 6 weeks without the app activated to assess retention of behavior. Throughout the 12 week period, we will monitor user behavior at multiple intersections around campus, along with gathering self-report questionnaire perceptions and behavior at baseline and 12-week post-intervention assessments.

Public Health Relevance

Pedestrian injuries kill over 5700 Americans annually, including about 665 young adults ages 18-25. Unlike most medical conditions, the pedestrian injury rate is currently increasing in the United States. This project will study the efficacy of an intervention to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior using smartphone technology.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Biomedical Computing and Health Informatics Study Section (BCHI)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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University of Alabama Birmingham
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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