Texting While Walking – A New Danger to Pedestrians
Of all the things that can potentially be a threat to pedestrian safety, who would ever have thought it would be texting while walking? Yet, the Ohio State University conducted a study that clearly showed approximately two million pedestrian injuries each year due to people walking while using their cell phones. Professor Jack Nasar coined the term “distracted walking” to describe the danger. While pedestrians may be in contact with their environment, their minds are otherwise occupied. Quite literally, they are not looking where they’re going.
We can all attest to the fact that walking while texting or talking on the phone is becoming more common. The amazing thing, to me, is that this behavior is causing so many accidents. People are walking into light poles or getting hit by cars because they aren’t paying attention. Dr. Nasar and his team reviewed six years of National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data for his study.
The data, gleaned from injury reports from 100 hospitals, showed that the most likely demographic for these injuries is men under age 30. Further, it showed that the worst U.S cities for this type of injury are the biggest cities in our fair state – LA, San Francisco, and San Diego. It’s become such an issue that the U.S. Department of Transportation is offering big money to these injury “hot spots” for education and awareness campaigns.
Dr. Nasar and team believe that the solution to the problem is, in fact, education and awareness. Others think that legislation, similar to anti-texting while driving laws, is necessary. While enforcement of anti-texting while walking legislation may be difficult to manage, education is certainly achievable. One idea is for parents to step up and lead by example. Research shows that if kids see their parents talking on the phone or texting while walking, they are more likely to do so themselves. Other educational programs could be put into place in schools, similar to campaigns against drunk driving.
It may seem like common sense that we have to pay attention to where we’re going when we’re out walking in public. However, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cellphone-related pedestrian injuries requiring treatment in emergency roads are on the rise. The figure tripled from 560 in 2004 to approximately 1,500 in 2010.
The data further show that:
- Traffic accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities rose eight percent from 2008 to 2011 totaling 4,430
- 14% of 2011 traffic fatalities were pedestrians
- Across the U.S., a pedestrian is injured every eight minutes
- Nationwide, there is a pedestrian fatality every two hours
Obviously, common sense is not prevailing. The numbers speak for themselves: If we don’t do something, whether education or legislation, the problem will continue to worsen.