It’s a decision most of us will face when walking in a big city: to cross or not to cross the street on a red light. Our eventual choice greatly depends on the country we live in, according to a new study. Researchers videotaped three crosswalks in Strasbourg, France, and four in Nagoya, Japan. After analyzing more than 5000 street crossings, the scientists found that more than 40% of French pedestrians crossed against the light, versus only 2% of Japanese pedestrians, they report today in Royal Society Open Science. Rogue red light crossers inspired pedestrians to cross against the signal in both countries, but twice as often in France as in Japan. The scientists noted that French pedestrians often followed other people into the crosswalk without checking the signal and were surprised by approaching cars. Further studies in more countries could help traffic engineers improve safety regulations on a regional basis, the team says. For example, a noisy signal when someone crosses at a red light could discourage other people from following suit—or prompt them to check the light before stepping off the curb.
Click here for free access to our latest coronavirus/COVID-19 research, commentary, and news.
Support nonprofit science journalism
Science’s extensive COVID-19 coverage is free to all readers. To support our nonprofit science journalism, please make a tax-deductible gift today.