Distracted Walking: Your Phone and Intersections Don't Mix
"Digital deadwalkers" are tripping and falling down stairs
You've heard about the dangers of distracted driving, but did you know people are getting hurt from distracted walking, too?
It seems we really can't walk and chew gum — or in today's case, use our cellphones — at the same time. More than 1,500 people were injured while walking and using cellphones in 2010, according a study by Ohio State University. Distracted walking injuries have shot up 35 percent since 2010, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
“The dangers of the ‘digital deadwalker’ are growing with more and more pedestrians falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into other walkers or stepping into traffic causing a rising number of injuries — from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures,” Alan Hilibrand, MD, an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson, said in a press release.
Only 46 percent of adults believe distracted walking is dangerous, even though roughly a third admit to doing it, according to a survey by the AAOS.
“It has to do with the psychology of cellphone use and the addictive nature of cellphones,” says Kit Keller, policy director at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. “We become so absorbed in what we're doing and lose track of our surroundings.”
Here are seven ways to kick the distracted walking habit and be a safer pedestrian.
Stop before you text. If you need to use your mobile device for any reason other than talking, step out of the flow of pedestrian traffic and stay in place until you're done, the AAOS suggests.
Ditch the earbuds. Hearing the vocals of your favorite pop star isn't worth not hearing the horn of an approaching car or the yell of a biker barreling your way.
Better yet, put away your device. “When you're walking, your cellphone needs to be in your pocket or purse,” says Keller.
Pay attention if you walk and talk. You can be distracted even without using a mobile device. All you need is a friend walking beside you and a good conversation to distract you from that commuter train flying down the track . "It's like skiing downhill while talking to the person on your left but not paying attention to the danger posed by the tree on the right,” says Keller. If you're in a potentially dangerous place, like an intersection or crowded sidewalk, save the conversation for later.
Related: What to Do if You’re Hit by a Car
Cross streets legally. Jaywalking laws are meant to keep pedestrians alive, so obey them. Cross at intersections and use crosswalks.
Look where you're going. Don't stare down at the phone while stepping off the curb. Look up and make eye contact with nearby drivers, advises to the National Safety Council. Keep an eye out for vehicles, pedestrians, utility poles, escalators and anything else you might otherwise wander into.
“It’s always good to be looking ahead, to both sides and at the surface you are walking on to be aware of your surroundings when you are in motion,” says Kristie Gladhill, a traffic safety coordinator at the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Talk to your child about putting down the phone. Half of all teens say they use mobile devices while crossing the street, according to a survey by Safe Kids Worldwide. Bad idea.
“Even though we all know about the dangers of texting when walking or driving, it is still a common practice, especially for teens,” president and Safe Kids CEO Kate Carr said in a public statement. “This is a trend we simply must stop.”
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