Distracted driving receives a lot of attention, so distracted walking may be getting short shrift. How many people truly understand the dangers associated with crossing the street or walking along the roadway in an inattentive state? How many pedestrians have been injured as a result of distracted walking? And what types of safety information should be given the public to help minimize accidents and injuries of this type?
In Washington, pedestrian fatalities have increased by four percent since 2005, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. A study in the Journal of Injury Prevention cited 20 different high-risk intersections in the Seattle metro area and determined that approximately 33 percent of their pedestrians were in some way distracted.
Distracted, for these purposes, refers to pedestrians who were listening to music, texting, or talking on a cell phone. The increase in pedestrian fatalities may correlate to the large number of pedestrians who engage in distractive activities while walking.
The issue is not exclusive to the Pacific Northwest, but seems to be a national safety crisis. A 2013 Ohio State University study revealed that the number of emergency room injuries connected to distracted walking more than doubled between 2005 and 2010. The findings of the study were based on data taken from 100 emergency rooms across the country.
Liberty Mutual Insurance also gathered data relative to distracted walking. The insurance giant conducted what they called a Pedestrian Safety Survey, which revealed that at least 60 percent of all walkers engage in multi-tasking while walking.
- Using cell phones to talk
- Using cell phones to text
- Using cell phones to read and/or send email
- Listening to music
The survey showed that 70 percent of pedestrians felt these behaviors were dangerous while walking yet they continued to engage in them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that such distractions, like texting while walking, may have contributed in 4,200 pedestrian deaths, plus 70,000 traffic accident injuries in the year 2010 alone.
Based on current data and statistical information, it is safe to conclude that pedestrians are safest when they pay attention to their surroundings and forego distractions caused by music, cell phones or other devices.
Especially in urban areas where traffic is heavier and accidents more frequent, pedestrians should exercise defensive walking skills. For example, they should obey any traffic signal, follow all laws affecting walkers and make sure all traffic is stopped and no vehicles are approaching.
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