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  • The Rise of Distracted Walking

    Our cities are changing. Throughout the nation, cities are creating an environment that’s friendly for those traveling by foot.

    Being a pedestrian has many advantages. It’s better for the environment, saves people money on gas, and is much healthier than commuting by car. But when pedestrian thoroughfares are used alongside roads there is one major downside: an increased potential for distracted walking accidents.

    Distracted Walking Defined

    Since cell phone use has become commonplace, we’ve become familiar with the phrase “distracted driving.” Despite laws designed to prevent people from driving distracted, you still see people talking and texting while driving.

    Distracted walking is when a pedestrian does the same thing. As someone traveling on foot, you may think you don’t need to pay as much attention to your surroundings as someone in a car would. Many pedestrians assume it is perfectly safe to text, talk, listen to music, and cross the street at the same time, but that’s not true.

    If you haven’t done it yourself, chances are you’ve witnessed distracted walking. It may have been when another pedestrian bumped into you on the street because they were too busy looking at their phone instead of where they were walking. Or perhaps you’ve seen someone nearly walk into traffic because they were on the phone and didn’t observe the pedestrian crossing signals.

    Who Does it?

    Age is a huge factor in distracted walking. According to the National Safety Council, 54% of distracted walkers are 40 or younger; and yet 20% of all pedestrians who are killed are 65 or older. But it’s not just age, cell phone ownership is a contributing factor as well and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a cell phone?

    The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons polled over 6,000 people regarding their thoughts on distracted walking.  Of the Millennials (18-34) polled, 70% said that they considered distracted walking to be a serious issue and 81% of adults over 35 agreed with them.

    What’s really interesting about the information gathered in this survey is that 74% of those polled said that they had seen others engage in distracted walking, but only 29% of them said they had done it themselves. And that’s one of the major hurdles in fighting distracted walking: everyone seems to do it, but nobody wants to admit it.

    The Dangers of Distracted Walking

    Staring at your phone while walking is like wearing blinders. It makes it almost impossible to be observant and aware of your environment. When you’re focused on something as small as your phone, your peripheral vision drops to 10% of what it would normally be. If you’re wearing headphones or earbuds, your hearing is compromised. Without these two critical senses, you are much more at risk to suffer an injury as a result of your inattention.

    The correlation between cell phone use and pedestrian deaths has increased quite a bit in the last decade. Ohio State University researchers found that between 2004 and 2010, the number of pedestrians killed while using a cell phone shot up from 1% to 3.6%. Not only do distracted walkers risk walking in front of a moving car, there is also a risk of:

    • Tripping and falling over curbs or debris
    • Stepping in a pothole or crack, subsequently spraining an ankle or breaking a bone
    • Suffering a concussion from hitting a sign or lamp post head first
    • Colliding with a distracted driver who isn’t paying attention either

    Tips for Safe Walking

    The only way to cut down on distracted walking is by educating the public on its dangers. If you have friends or family who walk while distracted, talk to them. Let them know it’s more important to keep their eyes on where their walking than it is to send that text or take that phone call.

    Keeping the following tips in mind can also help you be safe and cut down on pedestrian accidents:

    • Don’t jay walk. Only cross the street at marked intersections or crosswalks.
    • Use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk or pathway, always walk against the flow of traffic.
    • Observe traffic signals. If it’s not your turn to walk or the time to cross is almost up, be patient and wait for the next walk signal.
    • Use earphones responsibly. Turn the volume down low so you can still hear sirens, horns, traffic, etc.
    • Always look twice. Whether you’re crossing the street or walking in front of a driveway entrance, double check for vehicle that may not be able to see you.
    • Head up, eyes forward. Look ahead and observe your surroundings.
    • Don’t multitask. If you’re walking and you have to take a call or send a text, take a break from walking while you complete the task.

    We hope these tips will be helpful to pedestrians traveling in busy or high traffic areas. Unfortunately, you can’t predict the actions of others. Even if you don’t engage in distracted walking, there’s no guarantee that you wont be involved in a distracted driving accident.

    Distracted driving happens all the time and it’s a huge contributor to pedestrian deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian, the injury attorneys at the Frickey Law Firm can help. Contact us now or give us a call at 303-237-7373 to schedule a free consultation.