As more people are choosing to walk in large urban centers, the risk of distracted walking is growing. Headphones, smartphones, and texting distract walkers while crossing busy intersections, increasing the chance of a dangerous pedestrian accident.
Distracted Driving is a big deal these days, with state governments and non-profit advocacy groups doing everything they can to get drivers to take their hands off the phone and put them on the wheel. But in Michigan’s downtown areas the risks aren’t limited to drivers. Distracted walking puts pedestrians in danger of stepping off of a curb and into oncoming traffic.
In the first 6 months of last year alone, nearly 150 people died in pedestrian accidents in Michigan. That number has been climbing nationwide since 2010. Many of them were distracted by cellphones. A 2012 study found a full 10 percent were connected with the use of a mobile device.
That’s a big problem says Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association:
“We definitely think it’s a problem. . . . I see pedestrians with headphones on looking down at their phones. They can’t see or hear. . . . Anyone who’s out and about sees it every day. We know it’s occurring.”
And it’s not just limited to Michigan. Last year Chongqing, China, installed its first ever “smartphone lane” to prevent distracted walking from causing fatal accidents. In other cities, policy makers have tried lowering speed limits and even imposing fines for pedestrians found texting while walking.
“The policy issue is that we have to design streets for the way people actually behave, and behavior is changing,” said Noah Budnick, chief policy officer for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group based in New York City. “If you’re looking at a phone when you’re walking around, that shouldn’t mean death. So we have to design forgiving streets.”
Slower speeds can give motorists more time to react to a distracted pedestrian who steps out in front of them, and can make accidents that do happen less deadly. But nothing will be as effective as pedestrians who choose to put the phone down. That’s why Safe Kids Worldwide has created a pledge to prevent distracted walking. They are calling on parents and students to keep their phone down and their eyes up to help prevent childhood pedestrian accidents.
When a pedestrian is struck by a fast-moving car the results can be disastrous. Without the protective frame of a vehicle, the walker can be seriously injured, sometimes permanently. Pedestrians are urged to use caution whenever they are walking in densely populated areas, and especially when crossing streets. Putting the phone away could be the difference between a nice stroll and a life-changing crash.
David Christensen is a pedestrian accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents walkers who are involved in car accidents, and makes sure they get the compensation they need so they can focus on healing. If someone you know has been hit by a car, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.