Distracted Walking A Problem For Pedestrians In High Tech Age

Distracted walking is a growing problem among pedestrians who put their attention to mobile devices, ignoring the dangers around them and often paying the price for it, government and safety officials have said.

In one case, a young man walked toward a train platform at a Philadelphia-area station, talking on a cellphone as he came closer to the edge. With an extra step he fell to the track below, luckily avoiding a train, the Associated Press reported. Though he was lucky, many others find serious injury or even death as a result of distracted walking, the report said.

Distracted walking is usually the result of mobile technology, government and safety officials said. People walking on city streets and suburban parking lots often have their attention on cell phones, texting or listening to music and not keeping track of the dangers around them. Though the problem doesn’t yet have the same attention as texting while driving, the danger is still very real, the Associated Press noted.

The number of injuries from distracted walking resulting in trips to the emergency room have quadrupled in the past seven years, the report found, and the problem is still likely understated. Nationwide there has been a rise in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents, though there is no reliable data to show how many may have been the result of distracted walking.

“We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn’t have the data,” Jonathan Akins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told the Associated Press.

Different state and local officials have tried to find solutions to the problem. In Delaware, highway safety officials have started a public education initiative and put decals on crosswalks that read, “Look up. Drivers aren’t always looking out for you.”

A separate campaign in Philadelphia aims at getting pedestrians to look up while they’re walking.

“One of the messages will certainly be ‘pick your head up’ — I want to say ‘nitwit,’ but I probably shouldn’t call them names,” Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and public utilities, told the Associated Press.”

Distracted walking has also caught the attention of Consumer Reports, KIMA-TV noted. In a nationwide poll, Consumer Reports found that 85 percent of Americans recently saw someone using a mobile device to text, talk or use apps while walking. Another 52 percent admitted to distracted walking themselves.