Distracted walking is a concerning behavior that has some Maryland residents laughing, but this issue is no joke. Pedestrians who walk distracted, particularly when on their cell phones, are putting themselves at more risk than ever before- even dying from making fatal errors in judgment.
Cell Phones Are Fatally Distracting Pedestrians
People cannot seem to keep their eyes off of their cell phones. Safety campaigns have been popping up all over the country for years attempting to decrease the number of drivers using their cell phones. Unfortunately, little attention is being directed to the growing number of pedestrians blindly walking around in a cell phone fog. Residents of busy cities are especially at risk if they are not paying attention, with hundreds of hazards waiting on every street corner.
Pedestrians who are distracted by their cell phones are much more likely to participate in risky behaviors (most of the time without even knowing) including:
- walking into traffic
- tripping and falling on curbs, street corners, etc.
- crossing at non-crosswalk areas
- missing crosswalk signals to stop
- walking into walls
- falling downstairs
- falling into bodies of water (lakes, fountains, off bridges)
- running into bikes or other motorized transportation
These risky behaviors have led to an increase in unnecessary pedestrian deaths over the years that are only becoming worse as smartphones continue to take over the lives of our society. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates at least one pedestrian dies in a traffic accident every two hours. What statistics are not showing is how many of these individuals were distracted by their smartphones, but it’s estimated to be an astounding amount.
One of the largest misconceptions about multitasking is that it’s productive. According to the NSC, our brains do not function as well when attempting to perform two demanding cognitive tasks at the same time such as walking/navigating and using your cell phone. We may think we are multitasking but what we are actually doing is only partially focusing on two things at the same time, blocking out a number of hazards and dangers in the process.
Evidence that multitasking is a myth can be seen when looking at where most distracted cell phone walking injuries occur…at our own homes! Over half of distracted walking injuries happen within our most familiar environments, with far less changing variables than a busy city street. Multitasking on a cell phone enables a huge lapse in observation and judgment to take over our brains, opening up the door for a number of injuries and accidents to occur.
Road Fatalities From Distracted Walking
Pedestrians falling victim to cell phone distractions may find themselves unintentionally walking into traffic or not paying attention to a driver who may be distracted themselves. Unfortunately, most humans do not stand a chance when going head-to-head with a car on the road. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities in the country in 2017, and 100 of these fatalities occurred in Maryland. Pedestrian traffic deaths have shown a steady increase since 2007, with distracted walking and cell phone use only assisting in the growing number of fatal accidents.
Reducing Distracted Walking Injuries
National and global safety advocates are searching for answers on how to prevent unnecessary injuries and fatalities due to distracted walking- it’s a lot easier said than done. A large mall in China recently created “cell phone only” lanes for pedestrians. In attempts to curb the trend of using cell phones while walking, the mall uses bright green paths to catch the attention of these distracted walkers and puts reminders on the ground such as “Please don’t look down for the rest of your life”.
In Maryland, some residents believe Ocean City is on the right track when it comes to protecting pedestrians from traffic danger through the Ocean City ‘Walk Smart’ campaign. ‘Walk Smart’ is a program specifically dedicated to educating pedestrians and spreading awareness on what constitutes as safe walking behaviors. With the GHSA reporting that 82% of pedestrian fatalities occur right outside of intersections, Ocean City just enforced a new median fence to try and prevent pedestrians from dangerous jaywalking behaviors. Other positive changes include improved lighting, signage, and local authority involvement to discourage the act of distracted walking behaviors, including using cell phones while walking.
Safety Tips to Avoid Distracted Walking Accidents
Banning smartphones is not really an option to avoid distracted walking accidents, though it would probably decrease the problem immensely. To help reduce the chances of getting injured in a distracted walking accident involving cars, the NSC and NHTSA offer these safety tips for pedestrians to keep in mind when traveling by foot, most which will require you to get your heads up and off your screen:
- Look both ways before crossing the street. Never just step into traffic.
- Make eye contact with the drivers. See if drivers are taking notice of you on the road. Never assume they are going to stop for you.
- Remember crosswalks are not barriers. Not all cars will take notice or pay attention to pedestrian crossings.
- Don’t wear headphones while walking. Listening through headphones/earbuds could distract you from horns and emergency signals of oncoming cars.
- If you are walking, don’t look at your screen. Sit or stand still in a safe location if you have to text, snap, tweet, or do anything else that is going to take your eyes off your walking path.
- Cross the streets only at designated crosswalks. If you are distracted by your phone and a car is not expecting you to cross, your chances of getting hit are extremely high.
- Wear bright or reflective colors. If you are on your phone, at least cars might see you before you wander into the road.
- Walk in groups. Drivers are more likely to notice large groups of pedestrians as oppose to on solo walker crossing in the road.
Other safety tips for avoiding cell phone walking injuries include:
- Avoid virtual games. Don’t play games that require you to walk around public places with your attention on your phone.
- Schedule calls. Setting aside a time of day to return non-urgent phone calls can help you stay off your phone at times you need to pay attention.
- Don’t be a 24/7 phone user. Not getting in the habit of being on your phone 24/7 or texting immediately people back will deter the urge to always need your phone in your hands.
- Avoid using your phone near or on the stairs. Your balance and direction can be altered when you are on the phone, and stairs are not the place you want to test those abilities.
- Don’t use navigation apps blindly. Preplanning your route as opposed to following your phone for every navigational step will allow you to look up where you’re going. Your app will not show you when a car is going to hit you.
Cell Phones Are Not Worth the Risk
Overall, no cell phone call, text, or game is the worth the risk of getting hurt. Distracted walking injuries are 100% preventable just by putting your phone away and paying attention to what is going on in the world around you. Our society has supported the need for people to communicate with one another and stay entertained every second of the day through our smartphones…but that doesn’t’ mean you have to do it.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you could be eligible to significant compensation. The expert team of personal injury attorneys at D’Amore Law is prepared to fight for your rights. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. No legal fees unless we win!*
*Most Personal injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee arrangement. In the event of a recovery in the client’s favor, legal fees will be calculated based upon an agreed upon percentage of the gross amount recovered.