Are drivers of more expensive cars really the jerks we make them out to be? In Episode 73, Courtney Coughenour and Jennifer Pharr from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas discuss their research into what differentiates drivers who are likely to yield for pedestrians in crosswalks from those who don’t. Their open access article, Estimated car cost as a predictor of driver yielding behaviors for pedestrians,“ was published along with multiple co-authors on February 18, 2020 in the Journal of Transport & Health.

Anything but Pedestrian - Courtney Coughenour & Jennifer Pharr
Anything but Pedestrian - Courtney Coughenour & Jennifer Pharr
Anything but Pedestrian - Courtney Coughenour & Jennifer Pharr Anything but Pedestrian - Courtney Coughenour & Jennifer Pharr
@rwatkins says:
Next time, in episode 74 of Parsing Science, we’ll hear from Amalia Bastos about her research demonstrating that – for the first time that – a species outside primates, the kea parrot, has the ability to truly understand and act on probabilities.
@rwatkins says:
The proportion of people killed in “outside the vehicle” crashes – including motorcyclists, pedestrians, bikers and other non-occupants – has increased from a low of 20% in the 14 years prior to 2000, to a high of 33% in 2015-2016. Given this substantial escalation in fatalities, Ryan and I wondered whether simple solutions like “Hybrid Beacons” – those flashers embedded in the roadway – might be an easy yet effective countermeasure to protect pedestrians.
@rwatkins says:
In a 2018 report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that pedestrian fatalities increased by 5% between 2007 and 2016, with the count of 2016 fatalities being the highest since 1990. So, Doug and I were eager to learn if the cause of this nation-wide uptick is known.
@rwatkins says:
During our conversation with space archeologist Alice Gorman in episode six of Parsing Science, Ryan and I asked her what the basic makeup of a crewed mission to Mars ought include, and we were surprised by her compelling argument that it should involve an anthropologist, so as to better understand the newly isolated culture astronauts would likely experience. Mentioning this to Courtney and Jenny, we reckoned that something similar might also exist for public health experts with regard to the rationale for their being involved in city planning efforts. We’ll hear what they had to say after this short break.
@rwatkins says:
As of a week ago, 13 pedestrians have been killed in Las Vegas this year, nearly as many as were killed in all of 2019 … and this despite the state having been under stay-at-home orders for the past month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Such crashes are the leading cause of traffic-related deaths in Las Vegas, so Doug and I were curious why the city experiences such a high rate of these tragedies.
@rwatkins says:
As with their prior research, Courtney and Jenny’s present study aimed to predict the successfulness of pedestrians’ crossings by their ethnicity and gender; in this case by 120 distinct attempts. One quarter of crossings were attempted by a female African American student of theirs, another quarter by a White female student, another quarter by a male White student, and the final quarter by an African American male student. However, as they report in their paper, “due to battery failure as a result of the ambient outdoor temperature exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit” their GoPros failed, resulting in a loss of data. So, Ryan and I were interested in learning more about this, as well as how it impacted their study’s findings.
@rwatkins says:
In their 2020 study, Courtney and Jenny found that – relative to the price of another car – for each additional $1000 that a driver’s car was valued, the odds of their yielding to pedestrians decreased by 3%. This led Doug and I to imagine that the cars which failed to yield were piloted by stereotypical rich young lawyers with some newfound cash, aggressively driving however they pleased. But, in their article, Courtney and Jenny reported that the average value of the cars which yielded to pedestrians was about $6000, while that of cars which did not was just over seven-and-a-half thousand dollars. So, we asked them to adjust our understanding about how a car’s cost is a predictor of whether drivers are likely to yield or not.
@rwatkins says:
In advance of our conversation, Jenny and Courtney shared a 2013 paper they published about the extent to which pedestrian crashes differ between socio-demographics identified through census tracts. So, Ryan and I asked them to describe what it was that they previously did and found.
@rwatkins says:
In 2017, Courtney carried out a similar study looking into whether the gender and race of pedestrians affected driver’s yielding behaviors. So, Doug and I were curious to hear what she and her colleagues learned in that research.
@rwatkins says:
We followed up by asking for additional details about the setting of their study, why they chose those sites, and what directions they provided their pedestrians to ensure their safety as best possible.
@rwatkins says:
As can be seen in the ruins of Pompeii, pedestrian crossings already existed at least 2000 years ago. But in 2019 there were an estimated 6590 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in the United States, or two deaths per 100,000 people. This startling data led Doug and I to start off our conversation with Courtney and Jenny by asking them to outline what it was that their study set out to investigate.
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Hosts / Producers

Ryan Watkins & Doug Leigh

How to Cite

Watkins, R., Leigh, D., Coughenour, C., & Pharr, J.. (2020). Parsing Science – Anything but Pedestrian. figshare.


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Courtney Coughenour: They make it across the road nine times out of ten. But in the event that they don’t it’s likely to be catastrophic.

Ryan Watkins: This is Parsing Science: the unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researcher themselves. I’m Ryan Watkins.

Doug Leigh: And I’m Doug Leigh. Today, in episode 73 of Parsing Science, we’ll talk with Courtney Coughenour and Jennifer Pharr from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, about their research which found that each additional $1000 in a car’s value, the odds that their owners will yield to pedestrians is reduced by 3%. Here are Courtney Coughenour and Jenny Pharr.

Coughenour: Hello, I’m Courtney Coughenour I’m an assistant professor at the UNLV School of Public Health. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I completed my undergraduate degree at Penn State University. I then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to get my masters and PhD at UNLV and I never left.

Jennifer Pharr: So hi, I’m Jenny Pharr. I’m an associate professor in the Public Health at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, I grew up in Houston, Texas and received. My bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Stephen F. Austin State University have a master’s in kinesiology with the emphasis in exercise physiology from Texas A&M University. And I came to UNLV to get my PhD and public health and have been here ever since.

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