More and more people are choosing alternate ways to commute. Some rely on public transportation, some bike, and others walk. There are plenty of advantages of being a pedestrian. It’s cheaper than maintaining a car and improves your health.
The rise in pedestrians has led many cities to make it easier to get around on foot. Unfortunately, many of these walkways are right next to busy streets, creating a new problem: distracted walking accidents.
What is Distracted Walking?
Distracted walking accidents are like distracted driving accidents. They happen when a pedestrian is so focused on something else, they aren’t paying attention to where they’re going. People have always been easily distracted, but cell phones have made it much easier to become so engrossed in our digital life we don’t notice the world around us.
Many pedestrians think they’ll have no issue using their phone to talk, text, or listen to music while they walk, but that’s not the case. Your phone or tablet makes it harder to pay attention to things like walk signals and traffic.
You’ve probably seen an example of a distracted walker, if you haven’t been one yourself. Perhaps someone bumped into you because they were staring at their phone. Maybe you’ve witnessed someone walk into traffic without seeing if it was safe. The point is, distracted walking is all around us.
Who are the Culprits?
One of the biggest factors in who tends to be a distracted walker is age. According to the National Safety Council, 54% of distracted walkers younger than 40. That’s an interesting fact, considering that 20% of pedestrian deaths are people 65 and older. Cell phone ownership is a factor as well but, in this day and age, almost everyone has a cell phone.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conducted a survey of over 6,000 people to find out what they thought about distracted walking. What they found is telling. Seventy percent of millennials (those age 18-34) said distracted walking is a serious problem. Only 81 percent of people 35 and older said the same thing.
Perhaps more interesting is 74 percent said they’d seen someone else be a distracted walker but only 29 percent admitted to doing it themselves. Unfortunately, the fact that everyone does it but nobody wants to admit it is one of the biggest obstacles in reducing distracted walking accidents.
The Problem with Distracted Walking
When you’re staring at your phone, you simply can’t see the world around you. In fact, focusing on your phone causes your peripheral vision to drop to 10 percent of what it would be otherwise. That’s complicated by wearing headphones or earbuds, which compromises your hearing. With these two senses hindered, it’s much more likely you’ll suffer an injury due to your own inattention.
The number of pedestrian deaths linked to cell phone use has increased substantially in recent years. A study from Ohio State University shows the number of cell phone related pedestrian deaths increased from 1 percent to 3.6 percent between 2004 and 2010. Some of the greatest risks of distracted walking are:
- Stepping into moving traffic
- Falling or tripping over obstacles or debris
- Stepping in a hole or crack and falling or injuring yourself
- Walking into something headfirst and suffering a concussion
- Being in an accident with a distracted driver who also isn’t paying attention
Educate yourself and others. If you know your friends or family have the tendency to be distracted walkers, talk to them. Make sure they know the risks associated with paying too much attention to their phone while walking.
These tips can keep you safe and reduce the chances of a deadly pedestrian accident:
- Use marked intersections or crosswalks
- Only walk on the sidewalk
- Walk against the flow of traffic. This makes it easier for cars to see you.
- Only cross the street during the pedestrian walk signal
- Turn the volume on earphones down to listen for sirens, horns, etc.
- Look both ways before crossing the street, even if it’s one way
- Keep your eyes forward and head up to stay aware of your surroundings
- If you need to text or take a call, take a break from walking or sit down first
Following these tips will make it easier and safer to be a pedestrian in busy, high traffic areas. Unfortunately, accidents can still be caused by distracted drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian, talk to an attorney.
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