Brenda Fulmer

Study: Dangers of Texting Includes Pedestrians

Texting takes concentration, whether you are behind the wheel of a car or walking down a busy street. And a new study of Seattle pedestrians finds many are putting their lives in danger by distracted walking.

About 60,000 pedestrians are injured by cars every year and 4,000 are killed so researchers at the University of Washington wanted to observe just how distracted are Seattle walkers.

Among the more than 1,100 pedestrians observed at 20 high-risk intersections through busy times of the day, they found that about one-third were distracted by a phone, listening to music or texting and oblivious to cars, trucks or traffic signals. Texters were four times less likely to be paying attention and even look before crossing the street or obeying lights.

Only one-quarter of pedestrians looked both ways and obeyed crossing signals. Those pedestrians listening to music actually sped up crossing an intersection, though failed to look both ways first.

About 11 percent were listening to music and seven percent texting, with six percent listening or talking on a handheld phone. Females were somewhat less likely to look both ways before crossing at an intersection.

The study by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center was published Wednesday in the journal Injury Prevention.

Federal statistics report more than 1,100 pedestrians were hospitalized or taken to an emergency room last year as a result of distraction due to the use of a mobile device and that number appears to be increasing nationwide.

Walkers who text, just like drivers who text, may be most at risk, says researcher and co-author Dr. Beth Ebel: “Texting is pulling you out of where you are and putting your mind somewhere else… You are on autopilot and that puts you on risk,” reports USA Today.

While Florida continues to allow texting and phone use behind the wheel, Washington State, along with others, has a ban on using hand-held devices and talking or texting while driving. This is the largest study thus far to add fuel to the movement to broaden jaywalking laws to include distracted pedestrians.

Even though this study involved adults, researchers say teach children early about the dangers of distracted walking and driving. A parent can serve as a shining example of safety behind the wheel or on foot.

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