New Study Suggests Texting and Walking Just as Dangerous as Distracted DrivingDec 14, 2012
Public awareness to the dangers of texting while driving is on the rise with campaigns promoting vigilance against this dangerous activity. Texting while walking however, may be just as dangerous but it’s not likely to garner the same attention just yet.
A new study found that one in every three pedestrians is walking around likely unaware of their surroundings because they’re more engaged to the screen on their smartphones. Texting while walking is a growing social trend among pedestrians and is bound to result in more injuries and fatalities just as distracted driving has for people who can’t seem to avoid texting behind the wheel of an automobile.
According to a HealthDay report at CBSNews.com, researchers from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington find 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 data shows that 60,000 pedestrians are injured in automobile accidents every year. 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 see more pedestrians looking down at their phones than up at the road ahead. If it's any sign of foreshadowing, as texting while driving has become more common, figures for automobile accidents have increased and texting while driving, also known as distracted driving, is most often to blame. Many of these accidents result in serious injuries and sometimes even fatalities.
For its study, researchers at University of Washington observed pedestrians crossing 20 streets in Seattle over the course of the 2012 summertime. More than half of the walkers they observed were between the ages of 25 and 44.
At least 80 percent of all those observed for the study were walking alone. Surprisingly, 94 percent of all the pedestrians observed obeyed laws in regard to crossing in designated areas and 80 percent crossed only when a signal indicated it was safe. Conversely, only 25 percent looked both ways before crossing.
Many walkers appeared to be engaged in other activity as they walked and it was determined that this likely caused them to lose their focus while they walked. Nearly one-third of all pedestrians observed for the study were involved in some form of "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.
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, the research also found. Texters who make their way on foot were also four times more likely to ignore crosswalk signals and also to jaywalk.
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."