Our behavioural sciences team provides research & consulting services focused on human interaction

Balancing the needs of drivers and pedestrians in the central business district is a challenge for any modern, successful city.

In Wellington recent traffic management changes may have made the CBD even more challenging, with a number of high profile accidents. To help prevent such accidents our Behavioural Sciences team was asked to provide an evidence base from which to evaluate potential safety interventions.

Using video footage to observe over 1,500 pedestrian crossings in Wellington, we identified more than 35,000 crossing-related behaviours and examined a range of explanatory factors in order to determine how they influence actual, potential or ‘near miss’ incidents.

There were several key findings:

  • Only four per cent of crossings were not conducted safely.
  • Less than 2% of people were using devices such as music players while they crossed and these people were just as safe as others.
  • Barriers may only work to shift the type and location of an accident.
  • Pedestrians are often ‘lazy’ in looking for traffic; only 46% of the sample engaged in full, active looking before crossing.
  • Clever use of roadside infrastructure can influence safer behaviour in pedestrians

As a result, changes in roadside infrastructure are being trialled over the next six months to see whether they enhance pedestrian looking, waiting and gap acceptance behaviour.