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Texting While Walking: The New Travel Hazard

by  on  Accident Attorney

Distracted driving–mainly the buzzword for texting while driving–has been the subject of many policy debates and legislative initiatives. Almost all state has laws which directly target the act of texting while behind the wheel, and attach penalties varying from civil fines to criminal liability, particularly if someone has been hurt as a result of the distracted driving.

Now, distracted walking is receiving the same kind of attention. Jordan Levine, your Denver Personal Injury Attorney points to an Australian study which recently concluded that texting on, and to a lesser extent reading a cell phone, affects a person’s ability to walk and balance–and avoid accidents. In the United States, between 1,000 and 1,500 people end up in Emergency Rooms annually due to injuries caused by texting and walking. A study conducted at Ohio State University found that distracted walking injuries more than doubled between 2005–2010. Finally, a University of Washington study found that people who text while walking are four times more likely to put themselves at risk while crossing the street by not looking both ways, or jaywalking, than their fellow pedestrians who are not distracted.

The evidence is conclusive: distracted walking can be as deadly as distracted driving. But how do you stop people from using their cell phones for music, conversations, reading emails and texts, and the worst of all, sending texts, while walking? Our society is so addicted to its electronics that enforcing a ban on using cell phones on sidewalks or streets would probably result in open rebellion and complete non-compliance. But aside from enforceability, your Denver Personal Injury Attorney proposes that the larger debate is whether distracted walking is a subject for government regulation or a matter of personal responsibility.

Nevada tried but failed to pass a law that would have made it illegal to cross a road while texting. San Francisco, where three people have died already in 2014 from distracted walking, is implementing a “Be Nice Look Twice” campaign. Delaware has a similar “Look Up” (from your cell phone) campaign. In Maryland, where a 15-year-old who was listening to music and looking down at her cell phone was killed by a car, is asking for “Moments of Silence” at intersections–for people to stop and look before crossing. 

Oregon is trying a new approach with federal grant money. The TriMet, Oregon’s public transit agency–will test several types of devices aimed at penetrating the electronic fog of texting, calling, games, and music on cell phones. Below are the first five devices to be tested:

  1. An alert that verbally warns: “Pedestrians: bus is turning.”
  2. Flashing strobe lights.
  3.  Additional headlights that turn on and point in the direction so travel so bus
    rivers can see people in intersections more easily.
  4.  Verbal warning when bus driver uses turn signal.
  5. Illuminated signal at intersection that says “BUS” when one is turning.

Obviously, Oregon’s approach only applies to buses and public transportation, and distracted walking accidents occur between pedestrians and cars as well, so solutions such as these devices leave out a large part of the problem. But this is perhaps where the personal responsibility element has to be emphasized. Since police cannot be at every intersection to fine everyone texting while crossing the street, it is up to all of us to act responsibly and to encourage those around us to do so as well. It isn’t just a matter of courtesy; it may be a matter of life and death.

For more information on distracted walking or your options for pursuing a personal injury case, contact your Denver Personal Injury Attorney at Levine Law.