Save a Life – Look Twice for Motorcyclists, Petextrians

infrastructure-insight-headerThe “Look Twice Save a Life” campaign has reminded motorists that they are sharing the road with motorcyclists. Recent statistics, however, are showing that the campaign should be expanded so motorists also are on an increased lookout for pedestrians.

DrivingDistractedJust as distracted driving habits (Figure 1) injure more than 420,000 people annually and kill more than nine people every day, pedestrians are doing more and more distractive things that are putting them at risk. Research is showing that the number of distracted pedestrians is increasing.

In the February 2015 release of the U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts from 2013:

  • More than 66,000 pedestrians were injured and 4,700 were killed in traffic crashes
  • On average, a pedestrian was injured every 8 minutes and killed every two hours in traffic crashes

In 2013, Ohio recorded 85 pedestrian traffic fatalities, which was the 14th-highest of any state in the nation. California led the U.S. with 701 pedestrian fatalities.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that distracted walking injuries involving cellphones accounted for an average of 1,000 injuries a year from 2000-2011, notoriously earning a spot for the first time on the NSC’s statistical report, Injury Facts® – which tracks data on the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths.

“Whether we are in the car or on foot, it is important to be aware of our surroundings, even if they are familiar,” said NSC President/CEO Deborah Hersman. “… No call, text or update is worth an injury.”

More than six out of 10 pedestrian mishaps are caused by phone use, which result most commonly dislocations or fractures, sprains or strains and concussions. According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of all adult cellphone users have bumped into something or someone – or been on the receiving end of a bump – because of distracted walking. The increased use of cellphones by pedestrians – which are defined as any person on foot that is walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down –has created the moniker of “petextrian.” The Urban Dictionary defines a petextrian as “one who texts while walking, usually unaware of their surroundings.”

According to the NSC, “The rise in cellphone distracted walking injuries parallels the eight-fold increase in cellphone use in the last 15 years. It is just as important to walk cell free as it is to drive cell free. Pedestrians and drivers using cellphones are both impaired and mentally distracted to focus on their surroundings. For pedestrians, this distraction can cause them to trip, cross roads unsafely or walk into motionless objects such as street signs, doors or walls.”

WalkingDistractedA study by Australia’s University of Queensland shows that petextrians reading or writing are physiologically impacted. The study showed that pedestrians walk at a slower rate when handling a cellphone – especially when texting – and are unable to walk in a straight line. Also, a pedestrian who is using a cellphone keeps his head down and neck immobile.

Cellphone use is just one of several activities distracting pedestrians. In a study conducted by the University of Georgia, distracted pedestrians were observed talking to other people, wearing headphones, texting, talking on their phones or engaged in multiple activities such as texting and listening to music. (Figure 2)

According to ABC News, distracted walkers take one to two seconds longer to cross the street and are more likely to ignore traffic lights or neglect to look both ways. Ironically, researchers found that distracted walkers are more likely to use crosswalks – perhaps trying to offset their risky behavior.”

Distracted pedestrians, just another reason motorists need to look twice to save a life.

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