New study highlights risk to pedestrians who text while walking

More and more, people are becoming conscious of the dangers of texting while driving. Texting while walking however, may be just as dangerous.

A new study found that one in every three pedestrians takes time to look down at their phone to either check or send text messages or look for something on the Internet. It’s a growing and increasingly disturbing trend among pedestrians and is bound to result in more injuries and fatalities.

According to a HealthDay report, researchers at Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington determined that one in three pedestrians use their phones while walking, even while they cross a busy street intersection, where most pedestrians are struck by motorists.

Federal statistics show that 60,000 pedestrians are injured in automobile accidents every year in the U.S. Pedestrians die at a rate of about 4,000 times per year. These figures stand to rise dramatically in coming years as long as social trends have more pedestrians looking down at their phones than up at the road ahead. If it’s any indication, as texting while driving has become more common and more motorists partake in this dangerous practice, figures for automobile accidents have increased and texting while driving, also known as distracted driving, is most often to blame.

For this recent study, researchers examined pedestrians crossing 20 busy streets in Seattle this past summer. The majority of all pedestrians, they observed, were between the ages of 25 and 44. At least 80 percent of all the pedestrians were figured to be walking alone as they crossed the street. Though 94 percent of all the people observed obeyed the law when it came to crossing in the designated areas and 80 percent crossed only when a signal indicated it was safe to do so, just 25 percent looked both ways before crossing.

Nearly one-third of all pedestrians observed for the study were involved in some form of what researchers dubbed “distracted walking” as they crossed the street. Eleven percent of people were listening to music. Seven percent were texting as they made their way across a crosswalk and another 7 percent were talking on their phone.

The study was able to determine that it takes a person texting on their phones a full 2 seconds longer to cross an intersection than a person not distracted while they’re walking. More bad marks for texters who make their way on foot: They were four times more likely to ignore crosswalk signals and also to jaywalk. Only people who walked with children or their pets were as likely to ignore crossing signals and lanes.

The researchers advocate for stiffer penalties for people who choose to be more attentive to their phones than the sidewalks and other pedestrians while walking. They wrote, according to the report’s citation: “… a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk driving, will be important to limit the risk of mobile device use.”

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