America is undergoing somewhat of a transportation revolution. All over the country, major cities are making more and more of an effort to accommodate those who wish to commute on foot. Having more pedestrians definitely has its upsides. It’s better for the environment, it saves people the money they would have spent on gas, and it’s much healthier than spending your commute in your car. Unfortunately, an increase in pedestrian traffic has a major downside as well: the potential for distracted walking.
What is Distracted Walking?
We all know what distracted driving is. The advent of cell phones and the popularization of communicating via text ushered us into a world where using your cell phone while operating a vehicle is fairly commonplace, despite laws designed to discourage it.
Distracted walking is exactly what it sounds like. You’ve probably witnessed an example of it yourself while walking down the street. Perhaps it was when another pedestrian was so engrossed in his phone that he bumped into you on the sidewalk. Or maybe you were the culprit and collided with someone else because sending that next text was just more important to you than looking where you were walking.
The fact is, pedestrians are very likely to use their cell phones while walking. Most pedestrians assume that they’re easily able to text, listen to music, talk on the phone, and cross the street at the same time. After all, they’re not traveling at highway speeds, so many would argue that there is no reason not to use a cell phone while walking.
Who are the Culprits?
Age definitely plays a role in determining who is more likely to walk while distracted. In fact, 20% of all pedestrian deaths are individuals that are 65 and older. But cell phone ownership is a huge factor as well; and in this day and age, who doesn’t have a cell phone?
A recent study performed by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons asked over 6,000 people their opinions on distracted walking. About 70% of the millennials polled said that they considered distracted walking to be a “serious issue”, and 81% of the adults over the age of 35 agreed with them.
The really interesting statistic from this study was that 74% of those surveyed said that they felt that they had seen “other people” walking while distracted, but only 29% of those surveyed admitted to doing it themselves. So the thing about distracted walking is that everyone seems to do it, at least occasionally if not frequently, but nobody seems to want to own up to it.
What are the Dangers?
When you’re looking down at your phone, you essentially have blinders on to the rest of the world. Your peripheral vision drops to 10% of normal, you’re focused on a very small area of space very close to your person and, if you’re using earphones, your hearing is compromised as well. The dangers of distracted walking are very real, and they’re affecting pedestrians in a big way. Researchers at Ohio State University found that the number of pedestrians killed while using a cell phone went up from 1% to 3.6% between 2004 and 2010.
Besides the obvious risk of simply walking out in front of a moving vehicle, there are a number of other risks of distracted walking:
- You could trip and fall over a curb or bump in the sidewalk.
- You could step into a pothole or crack, resulting in a sprained ankle or worse.
- You could hit your head off a sign or light pole and give yourself a concussion
- Last but not least, your path could intersect with that of a distracted driver who doesn’t see you either. Distraction + more distraction = a huge potential for serious injury or death.
How to Avoid Distracted Walking
Education and awareness will go a long way towards fixing this problem, but it’s going to take action on each individual’s part to really make a difference. If you find yourself walking frequently, just keep the following tips in mind:
- Always cross the street at an intersection or crosswalk. Don’t jay walk.
- Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible, but when not possible be sure that you always walk against the flow of traffic.
- Obey traffic signals. If you don’t have a walk signal, or if the time to cross is almost up, just be patient and wait your turn.
- If using earbuds or headphones, keep the volume low enough that you can still hear horns, sirens, etc.
- Double check for vehicles that may be turning into or out of an entrance or exit on the sidewalk. They may have trouble seeing you until it’s too late.
- Always be looking ahead and remain aware of your surroundings.
- And, if you have to talk or text while walking, consider just stopping for a few moments to complete the task before walking on.
We encourage you to take these tips to heart and be safe whenever you’re walking in a high traffic or crowded area. Unfortunately, no matter how safe you are as a pedestrian, you can’t predict what others will do. Distracted driving is an extremely common occurrence, and is the cause of a large portion of pedestrian accidents and deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian, contact the lawyers at Hagelgans & Veronis for a free consultation and evaluation of your case. Call us at (717) 295-7009 today.