USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
FHWA Highway Safety Programs


National Pedestrian Safety Engineering
Outreach Campaign

Technical Working Group
Qualitative Research Session
October 23, 2001


The National Pedestrian Safety Engineering Outreach Campaign Technical Working Group (TWG) was composed of engineering and traffic safety experts representing various disciplines from around the United States. The group met at the Courtyard by Marriot in Dulles Town Center, Virginia. All of the TWG members participated in the opening session, which began with introductions and statements of professional affiliation. During the large group session the group addressed the main objectives of this session and previewed the organizational structure for the working group. The group's main goals included: sensitizing drivers to pedestrians' rights to the road; educating pedestrians about minimizing risks; and developing program materials to educate pedestrians and drivers about engineering safety countermeasures.


Following the opening session, Leverson Boodlal, P.E., presented summaries of studies regarding pedestrian injuries and fatalities. His review of quantitative studies served as a starting point for the rest of the working group's activities. The following is a summary of the main points in Mr. Boodlal's presentation.

  • Pedestrians compose 11% of all traffic fatalities. A pedestrian is killed or injured every 7-8 minutes. Twenty five percent of all traffic fatalities between the ages of 5-9 are pedestrians. The time of day and the day of the week are important variables in relation to pedestrian crashes. Most fatalities, approximately 60%, occur mid-afternoon onwards, especially in the evening between 6pm and 6am.
  • Age was also discussed. The age groups most often injured/killed are 40-49 year olds and those over age 70. Injuries often affect younger pedestrians more, with the 11-16 year age group sustaining the most injuries. If these data are combined, the statistics indicate that using Years of Life Lost (YLL), the highest losses occur in the 30-39 year age group. This interpretation does not rely on rate, but on frequency.
  • Vehicle speed is another important consideration. Most deaths occur in areas where the posted speed limit is 25-35 mph. Seventy percent of pedestrian crashes occur in urban areas, 79% are non-intersection, 62% happen at night, and over sixty percent of the pedestrians injured are male. Turning vehicles cause 20% of fatalities and 45% of injuries at intersections.
  • Pedestrian activities are also to blame. Thirty percent of crashes occur because of pedestrians' improper crossing. Walking, playing, and working in the roadway are the cause of nearly 29% of pedestrian crashes. Furthermore, a failure to yield and running/darting into the road each cause about 13% of the crashes. Next, drivers' inability to see pedestrians is blamed for 8% of the crashes. In addition, 32% of crashes occurred at an intersection, 26% were mid-block, and 59.1% of fatalities occurred in areas where a "crosswalk was not available." Compared to other modes of transportation walking is more dangerous than driving.
  • The group consensus was that while data are important, relying too much on data can be misleading. "Exposure" and other numbers cannot really be compared beyond the local level.


After Mr. Boodlal's discussion of data, all TWG members shared their concerns about pedestrian safety. Many participants felt that it was difficult to gather and nationalize the data regarding pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Furthermore, the majority of participants believe that one cannot depend on data alone when designing an outreach campaign.

Inadequate walking facilities, pedestrians' fears, and the need to educate pedestrians were discussed. There was concern about the design of roadways, which do not allow for effective communication between pedestrians and drivers. Some participants felt that engineering models are based on highway design and need to be tailored to include local roadways. Participants suggested that engineers work with communities to address their needs/concerns with regard to roadway usage. They also expressed concern over conflicting requirements for engineers and safety advocates. This may be reflected in the resistance that some participants reported when trying to enlist government agencies to work together on pedestrian issues. Many participants also expressed the opinion that traffic flow takes priority over pedestrians' safety.

Participants also discussed the need to encourage more people to walk. One obstacle in getting people to walk is a fear of crime. Another obstacle is some neighborhoods' resistance to the addition of pedestrian signals and signs, as well as the construction of sidewalks. (Obstacles were further discussed in the pedestrian breakout group.) Three types of pedestrians were also identified: people who walk out of necessity, people who walk by choice, and people who walk for recreation. The need and choice walkers have lost critical mass including children. On the other hand, recreational walkers have reached critical mass.

Another discussion focused on development and traffic/pedestrian problems. When patterns change or new transit occurs changes to the existing roadways only occur when data drives it. Lastly, participants expressed the opinion that educational campaigns alone cannot change behavior. Rather, public outreach campaigns should provide people with behavioral strategies that they could utilize to affect change.


Subsequent to the discussion of pedestrian safety, the TWG re-organized into two breakout sessions. One of the subgroups discussed pedestrians' perceived attitudes and beliefs. The other subgroup discussed drivers' perceived attitudes and beliefs.


The driver subgroup's discussion focused on drivers' attitudes and perceptions. The group expressed the opinion that since driving is the primary mode of travel, drivers believe that all transportation revolves around them. This feeling of primacy may explain why drivers feel that they have priority over buses, pedestrians, and other cars. Many participants felt that a motor vehicle gives the driver feelings of authority and power. Aggressive driving was also discussed in relation to drivers' attitudes and feelings of entitlement.
Driver's scope of vision and inability to see pedestrians was identified as a safety problem. Furthermore, drivers are not always expecting pedestrians to be in/near roadways. The group also stated that drivers feel pedestrians are out of turn, unpredictable in their behavior, and in the way while crossing the street. A lack of understanding regarding laws (crosswalks) may also be a problem. Engineering countermeasures may help drivers' behavior toward pedestrians, but the engineering efforts are outweighed by driver inattention.
"Speed Less, Yield More" was identified as a possible driver theme. Crash data may point to additional concerns for pedestrian safety. Some group members expressed the opinion that drivers are afraid to cause a situation where a pedestrian is in danger and that drivers may be willing to give ROW to pedestrians depending on the location. Another problem that the group identified is that pedestrians and bicyclist right-of-way is not reinforced after one completes driver's education. In addition, there may also be cultural issues with regard to driving and pedestrian behavior that have not been explored.
The driver subgroup also discussed the possibility that drivers disassociate with being a pedestrian while they are driving. Drivers may not be aware of the severity of the situation either. Lastly, the group suggested that there should be distinctions for types and ages of pedestrians.
The group generated a list of themes that could be presented to drivers in order to raise their awareness of pedestrians.


  • "Share the Road"
  • "We're in this together"
  • "It's your community, your neighbors"
  • "Walk in the same shoes as both a driver & pedestrian"
  • "You never know who that pedestrian is"
  • "Be nice to pedestrians, they gave up their parking place"
  • "It's cool to walk (and bike)"
  • "Speed less, yield more"
  • "Relax, Don't Rush"
  • "Roads differ, so do speeds"
  • "Be courteous, be safe"
  • "Don't sacrifice pedestrians safety for your convenience"
  • "You don't walk that way, why do you drive that way (British Columbia)?"
  • "Show/teach your children"
  • "Look both ways"
  • "It's not a courtesy, it's the law"


The other breakout group discussed Pedestrian Attitudes/Perceptions. The group raised a number of pedestrian misconceptions related to safety, including: "I'm safe if I'm on a trail," "It's safer to cross outside of the crosswalk," "It's safer to walk with traffic" (lack of knowledge of law), and that "white/florescent clothing is more visible at night."

The group also identified barriers that prevent people from walking: "It's not cool to walk," "I don't have the right equipment," "it's raining," "it's too far to walk," "it's not safe to walk," "it's not a pretty walk," "I don't have the time to walk," and "it's too hot / too cold to walk."

Participants expressed the perception that pedestrians cannot communicate with drivers and that pedestrians feel like "drivers are out to get them." The lack of communication between drivers and pedestrians was a main component of the discussion. Behaviors that indicate a lack of communication between drivers and pedestrians included running across the street for fear that cars will not stop.

On the other hand, participants expressed the perception that a pedestrian feels that he/she does not need to communicate with drivers because "drivers can see me," "drivers are looking for me," and "drivers will yield to me."

There was also discussion of pedestrians' lack of knowledge regarding engineering countermeasures and the law including the perception that the flashing "Don't Walk" means hurry, "when I push the button, the signal should turn immediately," "don't walk on flashing stop," "pedestrian laws don't count in parking lots," and "I have to wait forever to cross safely." People also believe the there are no legal consequences, for example, "I won't be ticketed for jaywalking." Another pedestrian perception relates to sidewalk safety, "I'm safe if I'm on a sidewalk." The group felt that pedestrians don't understand the need to look for vehicles in driveways and alleys, even when they are traveling on a sidewalk. The group discussed the pedestrian perception that there is safety in numbers, i.e. the assumption that someone else in the group is paying attention (which they equated to the behavior of sheep and penguins). This mindset was summed up with the idea that "It's ok to ignore signals because everyone else does."

The group also felt that there is the perception that pedestrians are unable to influence any change in the situation because they do not have the same size or status as drivers. Driver behavior, including speeding, was identified as a problem. Furthermore, the volume of traffic, and design of intersections, and time allotted to cross were highlighted as additional problems for pedestrians.


After the discussion of pedestrian attitudes, the group identified some common themes for the campaign to address.

Problem: "The pedestrian is not empowered."

  • teach pedestrians how to make the right decision
  • take responsibility
  • learn how to communicate with drivers
  • know your rights
  • don't scare them into cars
  • audience age, location varies (need to be audience centered)
  • rules of the road

Problem: "It is the drivers' responsibility and they'll do the right thing."

  • increase awareness
  • make joint responsibility
  • convey delicate balance
  • healthy respect for vehicles and drivers

Problem: "My convenience is worth the risk."

  • increase awareness
  • make joint responsibility
  • change the culture
  • change the engineering
  • It's ok to be late if you walk since it's an acceptable excuse for drivers

Problem: "Walking is not cool."

  • convince pedestrians that it's a valid form of transportation
  • pedestrians must be accommodated into traffic patterns


After the breakout sessions, the entire TWG again reconvened to review the findings on pedestrian and driver perceptions and to identify some key questions for focus groups.


  • What motivates drivers to respect pedestrians? Are drivers afraid of injuring pedestrians?
  • What effect does law enforcement have on driver behaviors? What type/level of enforcement affects behavior?
  • Is there a fear of lawsuits from pedestrians who are injured?
  • Are you concerned about living with the aftermath of having injured or killed a pedestrian?
  • What stage of contemplation (behavior change model) is the driver in?
  • How do we reach drivers?
  • What are motivators for change?
  • What was learned in driver's education regarding pedestrian safety?
  • What are the driver's anxieties?


  • What types of programs do you watch on TV? (relates to placement of PSAs)
  • Can you please describe the last PSA you remember?
  • Gauging reactions to shock message vs. humor vs. showing "correct" behavior
  • What are your favorite billboards, bus ads?
  • Do you read your bill inserts?
  • Do you obey traffic laws?
  • Do you know what a flashing walk sign means? (Assess knowledge of pedestrian safety issues)
  • Determine awareness and sensitivity of both pedestrian and driver travel behaviors.
  • Do pedestrians see themselves as "pedestrians"?
  • Do you perceive a pedestrian safety problem?
  • How do you feel about the word "pedestrian" as opposed to runner, jogger, someone who walks, or uses a wheelchair?
  • How familiar are you with traffic laws?
  • How responsible do you feel for your safety when you are a pedestrian?
  • What would get you to walk more and drive less?
  • What would influence you to change your walking behavior?


At this point the TWG reviewed the campaign goals. The need to sensitize drivers to pedestrian safety was identified. Teaching pedestrians to minimize their risks was also seen as a priority. Developing program materials to teach pedestrians and drivers about engineering safety countermeasures was highlighted. The TWG recommended that the campaign should place greater emphasis (60-75%) on sensitizing drivers to pedestrian safety and less emphasis on educating pedestrians (25-40%) about their risks. Next, age based themes should be developed. The group also expressed concern over not scaring people away from walking, but instead working to make walking safer so that more of the population could enjoy the benefits of walking.


The TWG discussed target audience identification and recommended adding more focus groups to the Wave One phase of the study (As a result, two more focus groups have subsequently been added to the study). The following were also suggested. For the driver target audience, the group suggested concentrating on young drivers. Suburban locations were also suggested. Focusing on the driver who is amenable to change was also identified and stressing a basic responsibility for drivers.
The TWG identified possible pedestrian target audiences including: parents, young children, people who use mass transit, and the elderly. The TWG also developed a list of recommendations for the pedestrian safety outreach campaign. These were:


  • Make "bad" behavior "uncool" i.e. socially undesirable
  • Deliver a message that relates to audience
  • Be positive
  • Be audience-centered
  • Rotate delivery of message
  • Use the message as a stimulus for local and state authorities to build upon
  • Repeated exposure to campaign message
  • Differentiate among types of roads: interstate, arterial, suburban
  • Use the "voice" of the audience
  • Make people feel good
  • Highlight desirable behavior so that people (pedestrians/drivers) will model it.



  • Use technical language
  • Use statistics
  • Focus on just one group
  • Be too repetitive
  • Scare people into cars
  • Use a lot of words in print media
  • Use analytical appeals, reach people on an emotional level


The next topic that the group discussed involved the content delivery mechanisms for the campaign. Some possible modes for delivery of the safety messages include: bus interiors, which would be directed at pedestrians as well as bus exteriors, which would be targeted at drivers. Transit shelters could likewise be targeted at pedestrians and drivers. Additional locations were transit stations/stops (i.e. subway), which would again be aimed at pedestrians.

Grocery store materials (bags and receipts) are another possibility. These could be used to target both pedestrians and drivers. Packaging such as milk cartons was another suggestion. ATM receipts could also be used to convey the campaign themes to both drivers and pedestrians. Other participants suggested integrating the new materials into existing outreach programs pedestrians and drivers. Hangtags for car rearview mirrors are another innovative approach.

Healthcare providers are another potential channel to reach the target audiences. Pamphlets and educational materials could be placed in waiting rooms for patients and healthcare providers can also educate patients about safe behavior. The same technique could be used for Department of Motor Vehicle, courthouse, Social Security Administration, and Immigration and Naturalization Service waiting rooms. College campuses could provide another setting for disseminating the safety themes and could be included in orientation packages to students. Another TWG suggestion was using insert materials with utility and DMV mailings. Questionnaires addressing pedestrian safety could be included in newsletters as well as accompanying the written portion of driving tests.

The campaign messages could also be conveyed in health-focused and popular magazines as well as newspapers. Newspaper and magazine editorials, articles on the issue of pedestrian safety, self-assessment quizzes, and suggestions for "things you can do to protect yourself", as well as print advertisement could be a very effective combination.

New media technology could also be utilized in the outreach campaign includes newspaper websites, i.e. Boston Globe Internet site, which chronicles the worst intersections in Boston. Internet banner ads and government websites could be used in conjunction with articles about the safety campaign complete with links to related information.

Television reports, especially community news programs, could be another effective channel. A combination of PSAs and news segments would be very effective. Radio may be even more effective especially during rush hour. These PSAs could be targeted primarily to drivers and less so to pedestrians. Movie trailers and advertisements on rental movies are another channel, which has not been widely utilized.

Some additional comments from the group included the observation that PSAs are only effective if they are aired. PSAs can be effectively combined with print messages to have consistency in campaign themes across media. There was discussion amongst the group as to how the message should be conveyed. Whether the message was serious, humorous, or personalized would affect targets differently. Another suggestion was to highlight the desired pedestrian and driver behavior, not just the incorrect behavior. This strategy could encourage modeling of the pro-social behavior. Other participants expressed opinions over the use of shocking images, which can be effective, however, they may also be difficult to place and could potentially alienate the audience. The costs and benefits of live action vs. animation were also discussed. The group felt that good animation is preferable to mediocre live action.

Any discussion of message delivery is also dependant upon budget constraints. These will have to be critically evaluated prior to selection of delivery mechanisms.


The TWG also discussed examples of effective Public Service Announcements. Some of the memorable campaign themes included:

  • "Feet First!"
  • "See and Be Seen at Crosswalks"
  • "Walk This Way"
  • "Crunch. Thwak. Thud."
  • "Walk Smart, Drive Smart"
  • San Francisco "Save the Latte"
  • Canadian safe driving - comical approach
  • Australian graphic/shocking PSA
  • WI Duck crossing PSA


In addition to the topics discussed in detail during the TWG session, additional ideas were generated and recorded for possible elaboration/exploration at a later time. These included the participant suggestion to combine motor vehicle and public health data to assess the pedestrian safety issue from a macro perspective. Another suggestion was to utilize walkers and runners as a community for education, promotion, and supporters. Furthermore, GIS data could be used to plot and research problems and target campaigns. Another consideration is to look at adjacent land use, not just roadway data to investigate pedestrian safety. Another possible variable in pedestrian crashes is the weather conditions at the time. A suggestion for safety campaign support was to approach car manufacturers and other partners. A study was proposed to examine how courtesy promotes safety. Next, approaching other government and non-government agencies to co-sponsor the program was suggested. Participants thought that Spanish-speaking focus groups should be considered. There was discussion of urban vs. rural groups and target audiences. Another suggestion was to develop a driving test course in order to observe driver behavior.


The TWG identified several goals for the first and second wave of focus groups. The first goal of the first wave focus group is to determine what motivates pedestrian behavior regarding pedestrian-related safety control devices. The next objective is to research pedestrians' receptiveness to types of themes, messages, content, and media for delivering safety messages. Further, the focus groups should also address what motivates drivers' behavior regarding pedestrians. In addition the driver focus groups should gauge drivers' receptiveness to themes, messages, content & media for delivery of safety messages.
The TWG recommended that the second wave focus groups research driver reactions to candidate themes and messages as well as pedestrian reactions to campaign themes and messages.



Aida Berkovitz

Tom Brahms

Tamara Broyhill

Vince Burgess

Valerie Burnett-Edgar

Andy Clarke

Mike Cynecki

Ann Do

John Fegan

Jennifer Gavin

Mary Pat Hanley

Dorothea Hass

Tom Huber

Frank Julian

Marv Levy

Julie Matlick

Barbara McMillen

Peter Moe

Bill Knost

J. Scott Osberg

Pat Pieratte

Joy Riddell

Rich Schieber

Carra Schoene

Deb Spicer

Mike Staggs

Carol Tan Esse

Harold Thompson
630-285-1121 x 2383

Stacy Vilas

Ann Walls

Terecia Wilson

Diane Winn

Kim Wolski
617-534-2633, 6123

Max Farrow

Juanita Panlener

Blanca Penagaricano

Megan Sheehan

Susan Yates