Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Conditions That Influence Drivers' Yielding Behavior in Turning Vehicles at Intersections with Traffic Signal Controls

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Conditions That Influence Drivers' Yielding Behavior in Turning Vehicles at Intersections with Traffic Signal Controls

Article excerpt

A review of the available literature regarding right turn on green and pedestrian safety reveals sparse data. The topic is not a priority of transportation research, even though a 2009 journal article indicated that it has complex negative effects on pedestrians (Hubbard, Bullock, & Mannering), especially on those crossings from the corner nearest the turning vehicles. A right turn on green can create what traffic engineers call a vehicle-pedestrian conflict: both the right-turning vehicle approaching from behind and a crossing pedestrian can potentially enter the same space at the same time within a crosswalk. This situation causes significant risk to pedestrians (Preusser, Leaf, DeBartolo, & Blomberg, 1981). In a 2006 study by the University of Washington using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the researchers found that three times more pedestrians were hit by right-turning than by left-turning vehicles, concluding that "vehicle movement was a significant predictor of severe injuries ... and fatalities" (Roudsari, Kaufman, & Koepsell, p. 283). And in a 2005 dissertation study, more than 26% of motorists turning right with a green signal did not yield when a pedestrian was present (Karkee, 2005). Right turns on green and conflicts have not been addressed as a specific topic of interest in the orientation and mobility (O&M) literature. Since blind pedestrians often cross streets where right-turning vehicles are present at the near corner in the United States, and where left-turning vehicles are present in many other countries where drivers travel roadways on the left, we decided to study how pedestrians might influence drivers' yielding behaviors in such situations.

Before 2005, research studies in pedestrian-vehicle interactions were not found in the vision rehabilitation field, but rather within the domains of sociology, psychology, and engineering. Sociology researchers found that drivers yielded more readily to individuals perceived to be dependent: a mother with a carriage, people thought to have a physical disability, or people who are blind (Baker & Reitz, 1978; DeMarco, 1990; Harrell, 1992; Harrell, 1993; Harrell, 1994; Katz, Zaidel, & Elgrishi, 1975). In order for drivers to yield when necessary, pedestrians must be noticed. Cognitive psychologists have compiled a large corpus of studies about the phenomenon of attentional capture and found that drivers and others responded with involuntary immediate visual focus (attention) when presented with items that they understood and that have meaning (Mack, Pappas, Silverman, & Gay, 2002; Most & Astur, 2007; Most et al., 2001).

We examined the research and major publications in O&M, finding an evolving perspective related to pedestrians who are blind and the relationship to vehicles at or approaching crosswalks. In the classic O&M publication from Hill and Ponder (1976), the authors recommended that a pedestrian who was blind not affect drivers in any way; they recommended that the cane be brought to midline near the body in a position that made it nearly invisible to drivers. Later, authors such as Jacobson (1993) and LaGrow and Weessies (1994) recognized that a visible cane and optional cane movements might alert drivers to an intention to step into the street and cross it. The third edition of the Foundations of Orientation and Mobility was the first to address driver yielding (Barlow, Bentzen, Sauerburger, & Franck, 2010). With the proliferation of roundabouts in the United States, the O&M profession has become actively engaged in drivers' yielding behavior. Vehicle speeds, road geometry, and the position of the pedestrian at the curb have substantial influence on drivers' willingness to yield to a pedestrian (Ashmead, Guth, Wall, Long, & Ponchillia, 2005; Ger uschat & Hassan, 2005; Guth, Ashmead, Long, Wall, & Ponchillia, 2005).

All pedestrians who are about to cross a street, including those with visual impairments, need to assess their situation for risk and, in the process, determine the likelihood of a driver to yield. …

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