The perils of distracted driving are well-documented in our society. Some states have even implemented laws banning cell phone use while driving. There’s another form of cell phone distraction, however, that is leading to a sizable spike in emergency room visits: distracted walking.
Emergency room data shows pedestrian injuries due to cell phone use rose 35 percent nationwide in a four-year span from 2010 to 2014.
Some researchers say cell phone device distraction accounts for more than 10 percent of pedestrian injuries, which number in the tens of thousands. This problem has grown so serious that the National Safety Council will now include distracted walking as a category in its yearly report on unintentional deaths and injuries.
There’s another notable statistic also on the rise that some researchers suspect is related to this spike in ER visits: a demographic shift in the age of people who are hit by a car. It is now much more likely that a teenager will be hit by a car than his or her younger counterpart.
In addition, Ohio State University researchers also found people ages 21 to 25 are most likely to be injured by distracted walking.
These demographic shifts may be because teenagers and people in their 20s are more likely to have cellphones than young children.
Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University researcher, also suspects the numbers published in recent studies are much lower than the amount of distracted walking takes place.
While every parent teaches their child to look both ways before crossing the street, Nasar suggests it’s time for parents to impart a new piece of wisdom.
“They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street,” Nasar said in the OSU study.
All of this aforementioned data is leading government agencies and politicians to take action. Utah and New Jersey have tried handing out fines for texting in dangerous walking situations. Meanwhile, the National Safety Council started campaigns to warn students who walk to their respective schools. It gave parents the following advice to pass on to their children:
- Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
- If texting, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk
- Never cross the street while using an electronic device
- Do not walk with headphones on
- Be aware of the surroundings
- Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if a child must walk on the street, he or she should face oncoming traffic
- Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street
- Cross only at crosswalks