Nov 19, 2015 1:00 AM

Author: Zach Robinson


People walking with phones

We all know about the dangers of distracted driving, but what about distracted walking? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but distracted walking is a real thing, and it’s causing serious bodily harm to pedestrians.

According to the CDC, the problem is vast. In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and another 76,000 pedestrians were injured. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every two hours, and a pedestrian injury every seven minutes. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.

Of those killed 3.5 percent were using a cell phone when hit, according to research from Ohio State University. That number has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

This is a big enough issue that several organizations are mobilizing to bring it to the public’s attention. The National Safety Council warns “With more and more children and teenagers owning digital devices, it is crucial that children understand the importance of pedestrian safety. Findings from a study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show that in 2011, a total of 1,152 people of all ages were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. for injuries sustained while walking and using a cell phone or other electronic device.”

So what can we do to protect ourselves from being injured while walking? Follow a few important safety tips from the NSC.

  • Do not walk, talk, and text.
  • If you have to talk or text, move out of the way of others and to the side of the walkway.
  • Do not cross or walk in the street while using an electronic device.
  • Do not walk with headphones in your ears.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially in congested areas.

The CDC also recommends that pedestrians should increase their visibility at night by carrying a flashlight, wearing retro-reflective clothing and, whenever possible, crossing the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection. It is much safer to walk on a sidewalk, but if a sidewalk is not available, pedestrians should walk on the shoulder and facing traffic.

Putting away cell phones, removing headphones and being aware of your surroundings will keep you safe when walking on sidewalks and is a VERY simple way to avoid becoming a trauma patient.  Distracted walking is quickly becoming one of the leading causes of injury in our community.

Stay safe. 


Zach Robinson

Zach Robinson MPA, EMT-P, is the Trauma Outreach/Injury Prevention Coordinator at University of Utah Hospital. Follow him on Twitter @UofUtrauma.

injuries prevention trauma safety wellu

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