Teen Texting Linked to Spike in Pedestrian Accidents

As the use of cell phones has increased in recent years, there have been umpteen studies highlighting the dangers of talking and texting while driving. The dangerous combination has led to tens of thousands of injuries and likely thousands of deaths.

Many of these incidents involve teenage drivers but a new study shows that drivers may not be the only ones who are in danger of combining texting with another activity. Research funded by FedEx indicates the same dangers exist when people text while walking. And just like texting-while-driving (also known as distracted driving), the dangers are more prevalent among younger populations.

While the study does not specify how many injuries were caused specifically while a person was texting as a pedestrian but there has been a spike in injuries among walkers in the last five years. The study entitled, “Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation”, tracked pedestrian injuries in five-year blocks of time.

The time between 2005-2010 saw more pedestrian injuries than any other time frame included in the study, dating back to 1995. In that time, cell phone and mobile device use has risen exponentially and it’s just as easy to see someone walking around with their attention and head focused on their phone rather than the sidewalk ahead of them as it is to see a driver with the same distracted look.

The study looked at data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found that the death rate among pedestrian teens aged 15-19 was 1.1 per 100,000 people. This was the highest among any demographic of children by age. The study looked at rates for children aged 0-4, 5-9, 10-14, and 15-19. The death rate associated with texting-while-driving is also highest among teens, obviously because they’re the only group old enough to drive.

Though the study was not able to identify texting as the main reason for the increase in injuries and deaths among pedestrians, the advocacy group SafeKids, which was commissioned by FedEx to do the study, believes increased use of cell phones, especially among people this age, was at least partially to blame.

For an NBC News report, the study’s author said, “We know that the average number of texts per teen has risen dramatically. Couple that with drivers who are talking on the phone or texting, and you have distracted people on both sides of the equation. Our hypothesis is that the rise in injuries among these older teens is caused by their dramatic increase in their cell phone use.”

Combine the increased use of cell phones with a higher volume of pedestrians, especially at this time of year when students go back to school, and it’s likely that this is the time when more injuries are likely to occur. NBC reports many schools have implemented pedestrian safety courses as they return to class to stress the importance of staying alert and off the phone, even if not behind the wheel of an automobile.

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