The purpose of this study was to investigate the traffic behaviors of pedestrians in the city of Urmia and to determine their most important predictors. In this study, less than 20% of the pedestrians demonstrated safe traffic behaviors. Over 85% of the pedestrians were distracted and over 80% of them did not adhere to traffic rules. The majority demonstrated traffic violations and no positive traffic behaviors and half of them were aggressive. This implies dangerous and high-risk behavior among pedestrians in Urmia. Contrary to the present study, other studies have shown that the majority of the pedestrians had positive behaviors and were less aggressive (2, 21). Although the majority of the participants in the present study were distracted and the frequency of aggressive behaviors was lower than other domains, almost half of the participants had aggressive behaviors, which is higher than other studies. In a study conducted in the U.S., 12% of the participants said they were aggressive and 15% expressed they were slowly crossing the street to annoy drivers (2). In the present study, the traffic behaviors were inappropriate in all domains. Therefore, it is important to provide the necessary training to pedestrians in all domains of behavior in order to change the overall traffic behavior (1, 7). One study showed that a distracted pedestrian can cause aggression among others, such that a pedestrian who is both aggressive and distracted suffers more in accidents (22). Therefore, due to the inappropriate behavior in different domains as well as the unsafe traffic behavior of most of the studied pedestrians, it is necessary to intervene in all domains of traffic behaviors to reduce pedestrian accidents.
To reduce intervention costs, it is essential to perform various training interventions, make changes in the physical environment, and increase policies to promote positive pedestrian behaviors. One way to do this is by conducting training workshops in the selected neighborhoods on pedestrian and cyclist’s safety (22), designing new pavements with different performance for pedestrian safety (23), providing reflective products (such as cloth strips and LED silicone band) and training brochures (24), installing pedestrian signboards in the middle of two-way lanes (YTPCD) (25), increasing compliance with priority rights of pedestrians by drivers and stopping to let them pass(26), and increasing positive behaviors and mutual respect alongside the improvement in Iranian infrastructure and culture.
Given the high distraction rate in the present study, it seems necessary to implement training programs. For instance, in several cities the physical environment has been changed by establishing alert systems, special routes for people who use mobile phones, pedestrian islands, etc. in the design of streets (Santa Monica, California, United States, 2016, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States, 2017) or designs such as Pedestrian Friendly Streets (Honolulu, United States, 2015). To increase regulation in the society, it is essential to begin traffic law training from childhood and continue it over time (1).
According to the findings of this study, all the demographic variables were significantly associated with traffic behaviors. Age was one of the most important predictors of PTB, so that with aging, people demonstrated higher levels of safe behaviors. This finding is similar to the result of other studies (2, 21). In the present study, the PTB score of the elderly was 10.7 points higher compared to that of those aged under 30 years. In examining behavioral dimensions, it was also observed that age had a significant impact on traffic violation, traffic distraction, and aggressive behavior.
This was similar to another study (27) wherein age was found to be significantly negatively associated with aggression and violation. It could be said that the higher experience of the elderly could lead them to have safer behaviors. Moreover, it could be argued that adolescents are more likely to use mobile phones and other distractive devices that could increase their distraction. A study showed that almost 100% of the Americans aged 18–29 years had mobile phones and about 92% had smartphones (28). Mobile use is one of the important distractors and environmental and training intervention programs are required in this regard. Given that violation was high among the youth, the training programs must begin at an early age and continue thereafter.
This study showed that gender was a predictor of pedestrian behaviors and women showcased safer behaviors than men. According to the World Health Organization (1), the traffic accident death rate in Iran was 15932 in 2016, of which 78% included to men (1). A research carried out in the United States showed that 70% of the pedestrian deaths was related to men (mortality rate of 2.19 per 100,000 people compared with 0.91 in women). In Mexico, the pedestrian mortality rate among men (10.6% per 100,000 people) was higher than that among women (4% per 100,000 people) (29, 30). In the present study, the men and those who were single were less adhering to traffic rules, and they demonstrated higher violation and higher aggression. A greater emphasis on men is required in the interventions for safe traffic behaviors.
Results of the present study showed, with an increase in education level, the traffic behaviors of the pedestrians significantly improved, which was similar to the findings of other studies (3, 31). Higher education had a significant impact, especially on the dimensions of adherence to traffic rules and aggressive behaviors. Studies have shown that increased level of education also affects the acquisition of other healthy behaviors, such as physical activity (32, 33). It can be argued that, with increased education level, the perception of various issues is increased, so people can better understand safe behaviors.
This study showed that, in individuals with more walking rate, adherence to traffic rules was significantly better. Also, higher experience of walking and observing behaviors of others in the environment makes people practically understand the laws. Studies have also shown that seeing the behavior of others in the environment leads to the same behaviors among the individuals in Iran, the rate of death and injury from traffic accidents is high. Therefore, it is essential to examine the behavior of users and determine the predictors for implementing interventional programs with the aim of reducing the burden of traffic accidents. Thus, one of the strengths of this study could be in terms of investigating the behavior of pedestrians as vulnerable users, which was carried out in one of the large cities of northwestern Iran. Urmia is one of the cities in which different ethnic groups of Turks and Kurds with different cultures are living, and the cultural context of the region can affect the behavior of the people in that domain. Moreover, the questionnaire applied to measure the behavior was localized for Iran. The questionnaire had been developed and validated by the Traffic Research Center of Iran. However, the present study also has some limitations, including traffic accident history of the participants or their family and friends, language, and ethnicity were not assessed, which could affect the traffic behavior. Another limitation is the use of self-reports in this study which may have resulted in biased answers. Therefore, it is suggested to have observational and behavioral measures to better tap the behaviors of pedestrians. Furthermore, other factors that could predict behaviors, such as history of traffic accidents, must be considered.