Keeping Pedestrians Safe in a World of Distractions

Keeping Pedestrians Safe in a World of Distractions

Distracted walking is just as dangerous as distracted driving and don’t think for a second that it only affects the person who’s walking distracted if they injure or kill themselves…it impacts family, friends, communities, emergency services, witnesses, workplaces and the list goes on. The risks with distracted walking have actually been a part of our curriculum since the beginning of our program in 2010.

Recent studies are showing that distracted walking is skyrocketing as a serious threat to pedestrians. According to a NBC Washington story, crashes involving distracted walkers sporting headphones are on the rise and most result in pedestrian fatalities.

The Toronto Police took to the streets in early August 2012 to raise awareness about the risks involved with walking while distracted. Although now a ticket-able offense in some areas of the United States, distracted walking has yet to hit the law books in Canada. If it ever did, it would undoubtedly raise a cacophony of cries about over legislating the public as demonstrated by this CBC story – Distracted Walking Law. While not ticketed, distracted pedestrians found focusing on their electronics instead of the road were the recipients of stern lectures and a pamphlet aimed at saving their lives.

Although a common sentiment revolves around the inalienable right to make stupid choices if they only affect you, distracted pedestrians are causing chaos around them through collisions with vehicles and trains. Not to mention the added strain on emergency services and our medical system. Unfortunately, a selfish or stupid choice to tune out of one’s environment while walking does not typically only affect the offender.

A study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center looked at 116 injury cases involving pedestrians wearing headphones. Almost 75% of those incidents resulted in fatal injuries to the pedestrian. Lead author, Dr. Richard Lichenstein, points out that over 50% of the crashes involved trains. “Nearly a third of the drivers in the [crashes] reported sounding a warning horn before the crash happened.”

“Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases,” says Dr. Lichenstein.

Two tragic stories out of Alberta and Ontario illustrate the deadly consequences of not being aware of our surroundings when on or near roadways and train tracks.

Number 7 (use the drop down button found in the top left of the video screen to jump to #7) on our High School Playlist is a New Zealand PSA that realistically depicts the tragic consequences of not being aware of your surroundings. It’s a great tool to help educate teens about the dangers they face when plugged into their electronics instead of their environment:

Take 41 seconds to sit down with your family, your friends and watch this video–and the others on our playlist–it could literally save a life.

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