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Dangers of “Distracted Walking”

Many of us realize the dangers of “distracted driving.” There have even been laws in some states banning texting while driving or talking on a cell phone unless it is a “hands-free” device. These laws are designed to target those who text and talk on cell phones while driving. But, fewer of us realize the dangers involved with “distracted walking.” In today’s world of technology and its impact on our daily lives, we don’t recognize walking and talking or texting as issues that need to be addressed.

According to Injury Facts, distracted walking incidents involving cell phones accounted for more than 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011.

  • 52% of cell phone distracted walking injuries happen at home.
  • 68% of those injured are women.
  • 54% are age 40 or younger.
  • Nearly 80% of the injuries were due to a fall.

Texas is one of four states that are responsible for most pedestrian injuries involving distracted walking. While 11% of all traffic fatalities occur in Texas, fully 8% of pedestrian deaths take place in the state as well. That amounts to several hundred pedestrians dying in accidents of this nature every year.

While Texas law does not specifically focus on distracted walking, it does offer some important protection for pedestrians. For example, vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians when they are crossing in intersections where the Walk signal is lit, or when there are no traffic control signals and the person walking has already ventured out onto the roadway. Drivers must also yield when they are going into or coming out of alleys, driveways, and parking areas.

Several states have recognized this issue as a priority and are setting about to do something to try to prevent more fatalities. New Jersey for example, has considered legislation that would ban walking and texting and ban pedestrians on public roads from using electronic communication devices unless they are hands-free. Violators could face fines of $50, 15 days of imprisonment or both. Although there are people on both sides of the legislation, all agree that people need to be made aware of the issue rather than taking for granted that nothing will happen to them at all.

Because of the dangers associated with distracted walking, the best way to deal with accidents like these is to avoid them in the first place. Pedestrians can better protect themselves by taking safety precautions and adopting better walking habits. For example, when there is a need to use the phone, the safest option is to stop walking while making a call or sending a text. Avoid using headphones, since they not only distract you but also prevent you from hearing horns or other warning sounds. Look left, right and left again before crossing the street; looking left a second time is necessary because a car can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time. Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you. Be aware of drivers even when you’re in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots. If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic. Never rely on a car to stop. Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult. Cross only at designated crosswalks. Wear bright and/or reflective clothing. Walk in groups. Above all else, be sure to continually scan your surroundings, especially when crossing any intersection. Your health, safety, and life may depend on it!