4.6 Pedestrian Gap Acceptance Training
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has been examined in few research studies. While there is some evidence that certain approaches may lead to limited positive outcomes, there are insufficient evaluation data available to conclude that the countermeasure is effective.
The purpose of pedestrian gap acceptance training is to help pedestrians learn to make better road-crossing decisions, which may reduce the incidence of crossing-related injuries and fatalities. Previous studies have reported that human error, such as poor judgment in gauging the speed and/or distance of oncoming traffic, underlies a significant portion of roadway collisions (Hunt et al., 2011).
Identifying safe gaps is a task that child pedestrians and bicyclists must be taught. Although children as young as 5 can understand the concepts of speed and distance—and young children can be taught to mimic gap judgments of adults—they can still have difficulty interpreting vehicle speed and direction at 6 and 7 (Percer, 2009). Additionally, child bicyclists as old as 10 to 14 show developmental differences in learning to adjust their trajectories to match safe gaps relative to older drivers (Chihak et al., 2014; Plumert & Kearney, 2014). These trends suggest that children require training on different types of gap judgment skills than adults.
Use: Unknown. Preliminary studies have taken place in New Zealand and France but no adult simulator trainings on gap acceptance have been found in the United States.
Effectiveness: Hunt et al. (2011) used a laboratory-based video simulating the roadway environment to test three different approaches for giving feedback to pedestrians in how to better incorporate vehicle speed information to their gap estimates and crossing decisions. While the study group was small—58 people 18 to 80 years old—preliminary results indicate that video-based training with a feedback mechanism can be successful in improving the accuracy of pedestrians’ estimates of driver speeds. However, improved speed estimation did not consistently translate into improved gap-acceptance judgments, and participant age played a role in training effectiveness. Older pedestrians, in particular, had significantly more conservative gap judgments after the training, which were independent of improvements in vehicle speed estimations.
Another study by Dommes and Cavallo (2012) evaluated the effectiveness of an education-based intervention aimed at training older pedestrians (60+ years) to improve crossing safety by taking into account vehicle speeds. Results showed that after simulated crossing training, the treatment group participants crossed more quickly, had larger safety margins, and had fewer close encounters than the control group, although differences were no longer significant 6 months after training. Also, in contrast to the Hunt et al. (2011) study, participants did not appear to improve in taking into account vehicle speed when making crossing decisions. The authors concluded that age-related perceptual and cognitive difficulties may exist in gauging speed and gap acceptance that cannot be remedied by educational training alone.
Costs: Medium. Costs would involve development of the training material (or adaptation from existing study material) and determining an applicable and appropriate venue to reach the adult and senior pedestrian population.
Time to implement: Medium. Training material could be developed and integrated into existing educational channels for adult and senior pedestrians.
- As mentioned earlier, environmental treatments such as allowing sufficient time for the pedestrian crossing in signal timing, median refuges, and careful attention to sidewalk accessibility issues are also important to older pedestrians who may have mobility declines. A study funded by Michigan DOT evaluated the effects of pedestrian countdown signals (PCS) on crash risk in a pre-post study of sites with and without PCS. Crash data from 3 years before and 3 years after installation of a PCS were collected from 93 sites and comparison data for the 6-year period were collected from 97 sites with a standard (non-countdown) pedestrian signal. Pedestrian countdown signals were found to be associated with a significant 32% reduction in all crashes and a 65% reduction in crashes involving people 65 and older (Kwigizile et al., 2016).