Distracted Walking: How Do You Cross the Road?

Have you heard of Distracted Walking? What is distracted walking? It is anything that causes you to focus on something (or multiple things) instead of paying attention to your walk. It has also been called “inattentive blindness,” saying that the human brain can only focus well on one thing at a time. If you are texting, talking, listening to music, or other tasks while walking, you cannot give your full attention to both tasks. Walking is one of the times you are most at-risk for being hurt, and we all have to walk from time to time. Adding a distraction can raise that risk up to 60%. In 2017 there were an estimated 7,450 pedestrian deaths (including traffic and non-traffic), and nearly 6,000 of those were struck and killed by motor vehicles.

Though all ages are at risk, ages 10-14 and 50-69 have 20% or more of all traffic fatalities pedestrian related. In 2015, a study by SafeKids Worldwide found teens age 15-19 made up 26% of pedestrian deaths in ages 0-19 years. This is about half of all pedestrian deaths. There are 5 teen pedestrian deaths every week in the U.S. Teens who were distracted were most often texting or wearing headphones. 1 in 4 high schoolers and 1 in 6 middle schoolers were observed crossing the street while distracted.

It happens in Nebraska too! In 2017 there were 426 pedestrian-related injuries and deaths, 62 of them in ages 15-19 – doubled from 2016! 67 of them were in ages 25-34. This information is from the Standard Summary of Nebraska Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents provided by the NDOT-Highway Safety Office.

How do we stay safe while walking? Here are some tips you can follow:

  • When possible, walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Follow the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals.
  • Cross the streets at crosswalks.
  • If there are no crosswalks or you can’t see, move to a place where you can safely see oncoming traffic.
  • Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you.
  • Stay alert! Don’t use your cell phone or ear buds.
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs when walking (or before going for a walk).
  • Wear bright and/or reflective clothing
  • Use a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for cars going in or out of driveways or parking stalls.
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult.

With distracted walking incidents on the rise, everyone with a cell phone is at-risk. We lose focus on our surroundings and put ourselves in danger. Stop using your phones while walking – not just in the crosswalks and intersections. Over half of distracted walking injuries happen in our own homes, showing that we need to be more aware of our surroundings, inside and out.

For more tips on distracted walking, or other driving-related topics, contact Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or (877) 337-3573. Email us at info@fourcorners.ne.gov.

 Sources: Nebraska Safety Council https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/distracted-walking and SafeKids Worldwide https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/alarming_dangers_in_school_zones.pdf