It’s no secret that most people are attached to their phones. We rely on them for everything from navigation to socializing, but cell phones can also be deadly when they aren’t used with caution. Everyone knows the dangers of texting or talking on the phone when driving, but pedestrians must also be aware of how cell phone use is putting them at risk.
The Governers Highway Safety Association reports that pedestrian deaths rose by 15% between 2009 and 2013, dates which roughly coincide with the rapid expansion of smartphone usage. With 4,735 pedestrians killed in 2013 alone, it’s more important than ever to be aware of your surroundings when crossing the street. Nearly half of these fatalities were due to alcohol, either because the driver or the pedestrian had been drinking. Many were also caused by distracted pedestrians who failed to look before crossing the street.
A recent University of Georgia study found that 26% of pedestrians wore headphones, 13% talked on the phone, and 15% were texting at 20 busy intersections. This means that over half the people crossing these intersections were not giving it their full attention.
Because pedestrian safety is at risk, many cities are implementing campaigns to warn walkers of the dangers of drinking and smartphone distractions. Philadelphia recently received a $520,000 grant to combat traffic fatalities, which it is doing with advertising. The city’s “Put. Phone. Down.” campaign targets pedestrians who use phones in high-traffic areas. Minnesota is tackling the problem as well, printing ads aimed at bar patrons that say, “Getting smashed at the bar? Don’t get smashed walking home.”
In addition to ads warning pedestrians, some efforts target drivers as well. Honda has recently experimented with short-range technology that senses pedestrians and phones, then flashes a warning on the driver’s dashboard. If the driver does not react, the car will deploy emergency breaks. This technology may make it safer for pedestrians in the future, but in the meantime people crossing the street will have to be alert.
What You Can Do
Being a safe driver means avoiding alcohol and distractions, whether they are phones, loud music, or distracting conversations. The same thing goes for pedestrians. Being aware of your surroundings and ensuring the road is clear before you cross the street can mean the difference between a safe walk home and an ER visit or worse.
Whether you live in a big city or a small town, always make sure conditions are safe before you or anyone else crosses the road, and be sure to use designated crosswalks. Following walk signs is the best way to ensure your safety as a pedestrian, and putting your phone away will help you to navigate busy streets with less risk of accidents. Although pedestrians have right-of-way, you cannot assume all drivers are paying attention—take responsibility for your own safety.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a distracted driver, call the experienced New York accident attorneys at the law offices of Antin, Ehrlich & Epstein today for a free consultation at (212) 221-5999.