Study Finds Distracted Walkers Risk Injury and Death
Although other traffic deaths have been falling, a new study finds that deaths of distracted pedestrians are increasing, as Kim Painter reports for USA TODAY. The distractions take the form of listening to music, or texting, or talking on a phone while walking, and, as a result, the pedestrians often neglect to look both ways for traffic or to follow other safety rules, Painter writes.
The study was conducted in Seattle last summer by researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, and is published in the online version of the Dec. 12 issue of the journal Injury Prevention. Painter writes that this study, which might be the largest one to look at actual pedestrians in “our age of distraction,” found that more than 26% of the 1,102 walkers were using electronic devices as they navigated intersections where pedestrians had been hit. The researchers observed the pedestrians crossing 20 busy intersections in Seattle, Steven Reinberg reports for HealthDay in an article appearing on Northern Colorado 5.
Reinberg writes that the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Beth E. Ebel, said texting pedestrians are also putting drivers at risk:
‘If the texting person in the car gets into a crash, they know it’s their fault,’ she said. ‘Texters are not looking before they cross the street, they are not crossing with the light, they are walking more slowly and they are not looking at traffic. They are putting themselves at risk; they are putting the car that hits them at risk.’
Although the researchers looked at pedestrians who were distracted by a number of activities — including talking on the phone, texting, listening to music, dealing with pets or children — texting was the most risky behavior, Reinberg writes, with texting walkers taking almost two seconds longer to cross the road. And, the texters were almost four times more likely to ignore lights, cross at the middle of the junction of three-to-four lanes, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the curb, according to a press release from the Journal. In another troubling finding, pedestrians dealing with pets or children while crossing the street were almost three times less likely than undistracted pedestrians to look both ways for traffic.
Ebel said people need to be educated about the dangers of texting while walking. Some cities, she said, have considered passing laws against using cell phones while crossing streets, Reinberg reports.
As a CNN article entitled “OMG, the text message turns 20 years old,” appearing on Colorado’s Own The CW 2 says, the text message celebrated its 20-year anniversary earlier this month. The article notes that the first-ever text message, saying “Merry Christmas,” was sent on December 3, 1992. The article goes on to say:
Text messages have a dangerous side. Texting while driving is a risky activity, and sending or reading a single text can distract a driver for approximately 4.6 seconds, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Thirty-nine states have banned text messaging while driving. Distracted texters have also been injured or killed while biking and walking.
Image by Looking Glass (Fernando de Sousa).