For the study, the researchers used Global Positioning System (GPS), accelerometers and travel logs from a 2008-2009 survey in Washington to measure the path and purpose of 537 pedestrians. The data was then compared to maps on the probability of pedestrian collision risk.
The researchers found that pedestrians on recreational walks were 8% less likely to be in areas where car collision risks were higher than those walking somewhere with a purpose.
"On recreational walks, people want a more relaxing path than someone on a utilitarian walk," said Alex Quistberg, an assistant research professor at Drexel.
The study also found that people who took longer walks, both in distance and time, were less likely to stray into dangerous areas where car-collision risk is high. The study also found that people who lived in single-family homes, owned homes or owned a car were all less likely to walk in more dangerous areas.
People who had children were around 2% likely to walk in areas with high collision risk. "This could be due to people with children living in single-family homes, which are usually in neighbourhoods that have a low risk of pedestrians collisions because of low traffic and slow speeds," Quistberg said.
"It is also possible that people with children at home are walking more cautiously, perhaps with their children," he said. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.