The scourge that is distracted driving is a real problem in this age of smartphones and information overload. But it isn’t just a problem for drivers – pedestrians in the act of texting are a danger to themselves, too. Texting while walking in particular can be quite dangerous, notes a new study by medical data company BMJ Group. Over 1,100 Seattle pedestrians were studied, and walking while texting was a common risk factor.
A hand-held path to pedestrian injury
Of the 1,102 pedestrians in the BMJ Group study, nearly a third of them (29.8 percent) were found to be performing a distracting activity such as texting while crossing a busy road. Music (11.2 percent), texting (7.3 percent) and other use of a smartphone (6.2 percent) were observed). Using a smartphone for texting or any other activity tended to increase pedestrian street-crossing time, by as much as 1.87 extra seconds to cross an average intersection of 3 to 4 lanes. Those pedestrians who were texting while walking were noted to be almost four times more likely than undistracted pedestrians to ignore a road safety sign. Pedestrians listening to music crossed 0.54 seconds faster on average.
Texting while walking increases exposure to traffic
In total, pedestrians who indulged in texting while walking were frequently observed. The distraction of advanced technology in the palm of the hand increased road crossing time significantly, which in turn increases pedestrian exposure to injury by oncoming traffic. BMJ suggests that further study is needed to determine how best to tackle the apparent problem.
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Pedestrians are definitely unsafe in the vicinity of the road, as sobering numbers from the NHTSA indicate. In 2010, there were 4,280 pedestrian fatalities, an increase of 4 percent from 2009. These deaths accounted for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities, and 3 percent of all individuals injured in traffic accidents in the U.S. As for pedestrians who were merely injured, the number was much higher: 70,000-plus. Doing anything possible to decrease the chances of injury seems sensible, and paying extra attention to texting while walking is one way to do that. According to the BMJ Group study,
“Individuals may feel they have safer use than others, view commuting as down time, or have compulsive behaviors around mobile-device use. … Ultimately 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.”