Texting Pedestrians Asking For Trouble

Multi-tasking pedestrians, according to a Seattle study, are  accidents waiting to happen.  Researchers in Seattle found that thirty percent of pedestrians were crossing the street while either peering at their cell phones screens, listening to music, or not paying attention for other reasons.

A pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle, Beth Ebel, has seen the consequences of these distracted pedestrians first-hand.  Ebel’s team of researchers at the University of Washington watched 1,012 people crossing streets at twenty intersections at three different, randomly chosen times.

Almost a third of these pedestrians crossed the street while performing a distracting activity.  The three top distractions were listening to music, text messaging and using a handheld phone.

The study found that those pedestrians who were using their smartphones while crossing the street, crossed more slowly, were less likely to look around, and also crossed against the light more often than the pedestrians performing the other distracting activities.

These distractions are, of course, unsafe for the pedestrians.  The CDC – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – reported that 60,000 pedestrians are injured and 4,000 killed every year in this country.

Ebel compares the distracted pedestrians to Pavlov’s dogs in that the dogs began to salivate when  Pavlov rang a bell because he would then give them food.  “Text messaging is just the same,” Ebel said.  “The phone rings, and we get a nice treat.”  This treat is in the form of a text message or email, which is certainly more interesting and rewarding than watching traffic while you cross the street.

How do we stop this unsafe problem?  Ebel believes this issue, the use of cell phones while driving and crossing streets, will be handled much like drinking and driving laws; at first, it will be  illegal, and then, it will be socially unacceptable.

The original story can be read here.