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Texting Linked to Pedestrian Deaths

By on December 12, 2012

How many times have you seen someone so fixated on their phone- reading or sending a text, they actually cause danger to others and those around them. Almost one in three pedestrians use  their cell phones or text while crossing busy streets, which could increase their chances of being hit by a car, a new study says.

“Talking on your cell phone or texting while crossing the street is risky for you and drivers,” said lead researcher Dr. Beth Ebel, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We need to start exercising judgment about when and where to use our electronic devices,” she said.

Distracted walking, like distracted driving, is a problem and researchers say pedestrians need to be educated about the dangers.

“If the texting person in the car gets into a crash, they know it’s their fault,” she said. “Texters are not looking before they cross the street, they are not crossing with the light, they are walking more slowly and they are not looking at traffic. They are putting themselves at risk; they are putting the car that hits them at risk.”

The first step is to educate people about the danger, Ebel said. Some cities have considered passing laws against using cell phones while crossing streets. The report was published Dec. 12 in the online edition of the journal Injury Prevention. For the study, Ebel’s team observed more than 1,000 people crossing 20 busy intersections in Seattle during the summer of 2012.

Specifically, the researchers looked for activities that could be distracting, such as talking on the phone, texting, listening to music, talking with others or coping with children or pets. Almost 50% of the observations were done between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and more than half the people seen were between the ages of 25 and 44, the researchers said.

Most of the walkers were alone and crossed when the light was green and at an intersection. Only one in four, however, observed all the safety rules, including looking both ways before crossing, they noted.

Slightly less than 30% of the pedestrians were doing something else when crossing the street. Eleven percent were listening to music, 7% were texting and 6% were talking on the phone, the researchers found. People distracted by some of these activities took almost a second and a half longer to cross the road. Although listening to music quickened the time it took to cross the road, people were less likely to look both ways before crossing.

Texting, however, was the most risky behavior. People who were doing it took almost two seconds longer to cross the street than those who weren’t, the researchers found. In the United States, accidents involving pedestrians and cars injure more than 60,000 people a year, and kill more than 4,000, the researchers noted.

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