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Phone Down, Head Up

We all know that texting while driving is dangerous, but walking while texting can be just as unsafe. “Pedextrians,” a word used to describe someone who walks with their head buried in their smartphone, has become a big problem and has caused many injuries, especially in New York City.

According to Injury Facts, distracted walking incidents involving cell phones accounted for more than 11,100 injuries between 2000 and 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported the highest percentage of pedestrian deaths relative to all traffic fatalities occurs in New York City (51%), Los Angeles (42%) and Chicago (30%).

Just like distracted driving, now distracted walking is quickly emerging as a source of serious personal injury. Distracted walking injuries are so common that the National Safety Council added them to its annual injury statistics report for the first time in 2015 (http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-pedestrian-safety.aspx).

Statistics show while cell phone distracted walking injuries were most common among women and those ages 40 and younger, studies found the issue is impacting all age groups. The problem is particularly common among teens. Nearly 40 percent of teens in the U.S. have been hit or nearly hit by a car, motorcycle or bike because they believe it’s okay to cross the street while texting or tweeting. Nearly 80 percent of the injuries were due to a fall. Injuries were also due to crossing roads unsafely, walking into motionless objects such as street signs, doors and walls. The most common injuries were found to be dislocations, fractures, sprains, strains and concussions.

If you simply cannot wait to check your email, one way to avoid a potential accident associated with using your cell phone while walking is to hold the phone up higher in your visual field so that you can see any potential risks as they come. Another solution for avoiding accidents is to take frequent breaks while you are using your cell phone while walking. Looking up every few seconds to assess your surroundings will help increase your safety. Using softwares that read out messages and have voice recognition so that you can give commands with your voice instead of having to constantly look at your screen can also help.

It is just as important to walk cell free as it is to drive cell free. Pedestrians and drivers using cell phones are both impaired and mentally distracted to fully focus on their surroundings. Researchers have said distracted walkers take longer to cross the street and are more likely to ignore traffic lights or neglect to look both ways.

Whether in the car or on foot, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, even if they are familiar. Stay safe while walking by putting the phone to the side. No email, text or tweet is worth getting run over because you didn’t look both ways when crossing the street.

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