Distracted Walking

October 19th, 2015 by Attorney John Colvin

Distracted Walking

In August, the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report on pedestrian safety that contained an alarming statistic: In 2010, as many as 2 million pedestrian injuries were related to cellphone use.

Several studies were cited in the report, including two conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Georgia that reached similar conclusions about pedestrian behavior. Both studies found walkers distracted by activities like listening to music on headphones or texting, took longer to cross a street and were more likely to engage in unsafe crossing behaviors, such as ignoring crosswalk signals or failing to check for oncoming traffic.

In recent years, many local and national campaigns have attempted to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving. Those dangers are amplified when both drivers and pedestrians are distracted.

A Lack of Awareness

Walking while staring intently at a smartphone is about the same as walking blindfolded. A pedestrian won’t see uneven pavement or an obstacle that could cause a trip-and-fall accident. In fact, one can become so wrapped up in texting or emailing, it’s possible to walk into traffic without realizing it.

Wearing headphones while running or walking can be hazardous, because a pedestrian may be unable or less likely to hear a car horn, emergency siren, or some other sound that indicates imminent danger. And when pedestrians are listening to music while looking at a smartphone, they may be completely unaware of what’s happening around them.

Where Accidents Happen

It’s not just city streets where distracted pedestrians unwittingly put themselves at risk. Distracted walkers strolling through a public park could inadvertently collide with a bicyclist, another pedestrian, or perhaps fail to notice an errant basketball rolling into their path.

In parking lots, people may pull out their phones to check text messages as they walk toward a store, never thinking about the risk of being hit by a driver pulling out of a parking space or speeding through a crosswalk.

When they’re unaware of their surroundings, pedestrians not only put themselves at risk, they jeopardize the safety of others. For example, a driver who swerves to avoid a pedestrian could end up crashing into another object or vehicle.

A Target for Criminals?

In a classic pickpocketing scheme, one criminal distracts the victim, while another criminal makes off with the victim’s wallet. Nowadays, criminals don’t need to work in pairs if pedestrians are already too distracted to notice what’s happening around them.

Distracted walkers may not notice when they’re being followed or when they’re approaching someone who seems suspicious. A criminal may be more likely to target someone who’s not paying attention, as opposed to someone who’s fully alert and could react quickly to an assault or theft.

Preventing Injuries

In response to the growing number of cellphone-related injuries, some densely populated cities are implementing additional protections for pedestrians. New York City lowered the speed limit in Central Park to 20 mph and has blocked off some streets to create safe pedestrian plazas. But that still won’t eliminate the risk of tripping over objects or stumbling into another pedestrian.

Some communities have outlawed texting while walking. But are these types of laws effective? Last year, Tennessee police issued 114 citations for texting while driving and determined a record-high 21,000 crashes resulted from distracted driving. If laws do little to change the behavior of drivers, a ban on texting while walking may not end the problem of distracted pedestrians.

John R. Colvin, Attorney at Law, has successfully represented injured clients throughout Tennessee and Alabama who have been seriously hurt because of another party’s distraction. He has also assisted families who have lost loved ones to distracted walking and driving accidents. For 20 years, he has been helping victims put their lives back on track, and he is ready to help you. For advice on how to proceed next or if you have any questions about this topic, call (931) 962-1044 or submit this online form. Put his bold approach and client focus to work for you.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama