Most of us know that distracted driving is dangerous—and results in an average of 3,331 deaths and an additional 387,000 motor vehicle crashes every year. These deaths and accidents can be prevented, if drivers took more care in preventing these three distracted driving activities: taking their eyes off the road, taking their hands off the wheel, and taking their mind off driving.
Measures have been taken to reduce the incidence of distracted driving by introducing “hands-free” legislation, along with fines and other penalties. But there’s another type of distracted behavior that’s not getting nearly as much press or preventative backing by the courts. Distracted walking is now putting people at just as much risk for injury as distracted driving.
Research is proving that pedestrians talking or texting when crossing streets are at an increased risk for suffering a serious injury. Just recently, a team of researchers from Ohio State University searched databases from across America, looking at emergency room visits. They found that the number of injuries rose from approximately 256 in 2004, to 597 in 2007, 1,055 in 2008, 1,113 in 2009 and 1,055 in 2010—the last year the researchers had data for.
These ER visits weren’t necessarily the result of run-ins with cars, but also from walking into poles, falling off bridges, tripping over objects, and losing their footing when unaware of steps.
In another study, performed at the University of Alabama, researchers looked at the effects of distracted walking in 10- and 11-year-old children. The study used virtual technology to examine the difference between crossing a street six times while undistracted versus distracted.
The researchers found when the children were talking on cellphones, they were less attentive to traffic, misjudged the amount of “safe time” they had between crossing a street and avoiding oncoming traffic, and waited longer before crossing the street.
So what about listening to music—surely that can’t be as risky as talking or texting when walking. Not so, according to a study that looked at texting, talking, or listening to music and the safety of 138 college students. Again, participants distracted by music or texting were more likely to be hit by a vehicle than those who were not distracted. Whatever the activity, students were more likely to look away from the street and at their phones instead.
No matter the distraction, walking is safer with your full concentration. If you have to talk or text, stop walking. Cars and pedestrians are always a risky combination, but adding a cellphone into the mix is just too costly in terms of your physical safety.
Be especially careful when walking in busy traffic in urban centers. Negotiating city traffic requires your full concentration.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Cellphone ‘Distracted Walking’ Sending Pedestrians to the ER: Talking, texting users aren’t looking out for dangers, study finds,” MedlinePlus web site, June 25, 2013; www.medlineplus.gov, last accessed July 2, 2013.
Nasar, J.L., et al., “Pedestrian injuries due to mobile phone use in public places,” Accid Anal Prev. August 2013; 57: 91-5.
Stavrinos, D., et al., “Effect of cell phone distraction on pediatric pedestrian injury risk,” Pediatrics. February 2009; 123(2): e179-85.
Shwebel, D.C., et al., “Distraction and pedestrian safety: how talking on the phone, texting, and listening to music impact crossing the street,” Accid Anal Prev. March 2012; 45: 266-71.