The Dangers of Distracted Walking

Distractions like texting and talking on the phone are not just dangerous for drivers; they are equally risky for pedestrians. Distracted walking accidents are occurring with increasing frequency in America, particularly amongst teens and college students, according to ABC News. 

Many of these accidents occur on city streets, near shopping centers, and in parking lots. They are all avoidable. Simple precautions could prevent many of these distracted walking accidents and save thousands of lives each year.

Common types of distractions for pedestriansWhat are the most common types of distractions for pedestrians?

Anything that takes your eyes or attention off of your surroundings is a form of distraction and can increase your risk of getting involved in a pedestrian accident. The most common things that distract people when walking include texting, playing games on mobile devices, listening to music, daydreaming/zoning out, and being involved in a conversation with others.

In its 2015 Distracted Walking Study, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) looked at some of the perceptions and behaviors regarding pedestrian distractions. One of the main interesting findings of the study was that while most people believe that distracted walking is dangerous and have personally witnessed others engaging in distractions while walking, few actually admit to doing it themselves. In other words, the “it-is-them-not-me” mentality is prevalent.

The study found that:

  • About 75 percent of adults say that it is “other people” who walk distractedly; only 29 percent of the study’s survey respondents admit that they, personally, have an issue (either sometimes or usually) with walking distractedly.
  • Ninety percent of respondents report that they frequently see walkers talking on the phone, but only 37 percent admit doing so themselves.
  • Eighty-eight percent say they have seen pedestrians listening to music, vs. 34 percent who admit to doing so themselves.
  • Eighty-five percent see pedestrians using a smartphone, vs. 28 percent who admit to using their smartphone to text, read emails, etc. while walking.
  • Sixty-four percent have seen pedestrians “zoning out,” vs. 38 percent who admit to zoning out.

How big is the problem of distracted walking?

Contrary to popular belief, humans cannot multitask well. Those who walk distractedly put themselves at high risk of getting hit by a vehicle; they take longer to cross the street, do not pay attention to traffic signals, neglect traffic laws, and step out into the roadway without carefully looking both ways for oncoming traffic. 

Pedestrian injuries and deaths are on the rise in our country, which we can attribute, at least partly, to the increasing use of cell phones and MP3 devices.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that distracted walking accidents involving cell phones, e.g., walking into things, tripping and falling, walking into traffic, etc., caused at least 11,000 injuries between 2000 and 2011. In addition, approximately four out of 10 people report that they have personally witnessed a distracted walking incident, according to the AAOS study.

In its Distracted Walking: How ‘Petextrians’ Are Endangering Our Streets report, ABC News notes: “The problem is particularly prevalent among teens, who tend to believe it’s okay to cross the street while texting or tweeting. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. teens have been hit or nearly hit by a passing car, motorcycle, or bike — and those hit or nearly hit tend to report higher rates of cell phone-related distraction than their peers.”

What are the other repercussions of distracted walking?

Obviously, the most serious potential consequence of walking while distracted is injury or death. Additionally, if your distractions cause you to violate traffic laws, such as crossing at non-intersections, ignoring crosswalk signals, or failing to yield right-of-way, law enforcement can give you a ticket.

Distracted walking is also often a form of negligence in personal injury claims and lawsuits. Unlike laws for drivers, which prohibit texting while driving in many states, there are no laws for texting while walking. However, if you are ever involved in a pedestrian accident, the driver who hit you may try to argue that because you were not paying attention, you are partially at-fault for your injuries.

These arguments are valid. If you are ever hurt in a traffic accident but you were distracted at the time the accident occurred, the insurer or courts will likely find you partly or totally liable for your own damages. Ultimately, not paying attention while walking near traffic is a huge liability.

What happens if I am considered at-fault in my pedestrian accident?

If the other driver can prove that your distraction (texting, daydreaming, listening to music, etc.) while walking contributed to the accident, then you may be subject to the laws of comparative negligence. Under these laws, which exist in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you cannot recover damages if your fault for the accident is 51 percent or more.

Furthermore, your proportion of fault will reduce your damages amount. In other words, if the fact that you were texting means that you were 10 percent at fault for your accident, then the insurer will reduce your recoverable damages amount by 10 percent.

Where can I get more information about the dangers of distracted driving?

Because distracted walking is rapidly becoming a considerable public safety concern, national agencies and organizations are making efforts to increase awareness. There are various helpful resources available. Here are just a few examples. 

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 20 minute video, Getting There Safely – Pedestrian Safety
  • Pennsylvania’s It’s Road Safety Not Rocket Science’s YouTube Channel
  • The Digital Deadwalkers television PSA
  • The NSC’s Steps to Avoid Injury or Death While Walking
  • The NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center
  • Just Drive PA 
  • Michael Saile’s free eBook, Don’t Crash Again! A Car Accident Victim’s Guide to Maximizing Recovery (applicable to pedestrian victims, as well)

As for legal help after an accident or for information about how distractions affect liability on an accident claim, direct your inquiries to our pedestrian accident attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC. We help accident victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey recover the highest settlement that they are entitled to. 

Contact us today at 215-642-2335 to schedule a free consultation.