The Colorado Springs police recently released the results of a study by Safe Kids Worldwide that found that 40% of teens in the study said they have been hit or nearly hit by a car, bike, or motorcycle while walking, as Kassondra Cloos reports for The Gazette. The FedEx-funded study, “Teens on the Move,” surveyed 1,040 teens ages 13 to 18 about their walking habits, writes SafeKids.org.
According to the study:
While staying safe as a driver and a passenger is important, riding in a car isn’t the only time a teen is at risk for a serious injury involving a motor vehicle. In 2012, 284 teens ages 13 to 19 died after being hit [by] a motor vehicle while walking. Another 10,000 were injured. Said another way, every hour a teen pedestrian is killed or injured in the United States, And while teens account for one-third of the population of children in the United States, they make up two-thirds of the pedestrian fatalities.
The researchers found that those teens who have been hit or had a close call while walking more often reported that they had been distracted at the time and/or crossing the street in risky ways — in the middle of the block, in the dark, or while running. Half of teens say they interact with a mobile device while crossing the street; and the proportion of teens who say they were hit or almost hit while texting is two times greater than those who were not texting, the report says.
Texting is not the only thing distracting pedestrians, the study notes, since smartphones are also used for surfing the Internet and taking pictures. Using the Internet is just as distracting as texting, the study reports; college students in a virtual simulator while surfing the Web on their phones were more likely to be hit or almost hit by a virtual vehicle than those who were not distracted.
The study says that although only 12% of teens say they most often walk to and from school, more than 70% say they walk for some portion of the commute, even if they take a school bus or get a ride from a parent. However, only 40% of teens say they have been instructed on safe ways to cross the street in the last year, the study writes.
SafeKids.org offers three ways to help teens and all pedestrians stay safe while walking:
1. Put down phones and headphones when crossing the street.
2. Cross at a traffic signal or crosswalk, when possible, and make eye contact with drivers before crossing.
3. Be especially alert when it’s dark out, and make sure you are visible to drivers [by wearing light colored clothing and/or wearing reflectors].
Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced an initiative to reduce pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities, the study notes. It includes requiring local assessments of risky intersections, offering community education on pedestrian and biking safety, creating methods to prevent mid-block crossings, and continued support for the Safe Routes to School program. One innovation, the study writes, is called “road diets,” in which engineers revamp roads to reduce traffic and speed.
Safe Kids Worldwide is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to look to “A Vision to Reach Zero,” a global model for making roads safer that originated in Sweden. Vision Zero had dramatically reduced traffic fatalities and road deaths of children under 7 in Sweden, the study reports. Featuring common-sense solutions to reduce car accidents, such as low urban speed limits, speed bumps, and increased law enforcement, Vision Zero has been adopted, at least in part, in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, the study reports.