Distracted Walking

According to the National Safety Council, unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Pedestrians walking and talking or texting on their phones can put themselves in danger pretty much anywhere. Just like distracted driving, distracted walking caused by the need to check our cellphones is becoming a pandemic where people are not only getting hit by cars but also getting injured from slip and fall at home. In fact, fifty-two percent of distracted walking incidents involving cellphones happen at home according to a recent study. Sixty-eight percent of those injured were women, and 54 percent are people ages 40 or younger. Between 2000 and 2011, distracted walking injuries involving cellphones accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries, making it a significant safety threat [1].

Bringing Awareness

The Florida Department of Transportation is beginning to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted walking as part of its effort to reduce pedestrian and bicycle crashes in the area. Florida is the highest in the nation in pedestrian fatalities. Consequently, to get pedestrians to pay more attention to their surroundings on busy Florida roads, the transportation department is asking walkers to “Stop the Talk. Just Walk.” The department has also been handing out screen cleaners that stick to cellphones so that the cards that are attached to the cleaners warn people not to walk and talk. It also devised a test to examine how often and to what extent walkers use their cellphones. It asks, “While walking, do you text your friends, talk on your cellphone, use headphones, cross streets while using your phone?” Answering yes to any of those, according to the department, means that you are putting yourself at risk.

Trenda McPherson, the state’s bicycle and pedestrian safety manager stated, “The nationwide trend shows that [pedestrians are being injured because they are distracted]. In states that are collecting data, it’s showing up. There is pretty good evidence that that’s the case.” Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg all have busy downtown areas where pedestrians are glued to their phones instead of properly checking for traffic before crossing the street.

As part of a statewide study last year examining at how pedestrians behave at intersections, researchers found that almost 20 percent of pedestrians and cyclists were distracted, said Pei-Sung Lin, a program director at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. In addition, it was found that young adults were more likely to be preoccupied with other things, such as listening to headphones or talking on the phone while walking. Twenty-five to twenty-six percent were distracted.

Also, Kara Macek, the Governors Highway Safety Association, a national traffic safety group that studies injuries related to cellphone usages and distractions stated, “Not only are they [pedestrians] taking their eyes off of their surroundings and therefore less able to react, they are also walking more slowly than if they were not trying to multitask, and therefore taking more time to cross at intersections.” [2]

Local Programs to Educate the Public

The University of South Florida, besides adding to the information above, also hosts an annual Bulls Bike and Walk Week. The WalkWise, Bike Smart and Drive Carefully program is led by students that use activities, social media, a pledge, peer exchanges and other tactics to promote personal responsibility regardless of mode. After the campaign, observational surveys have shown improvements in road user behavior. These improvements include pedestrians and bicyclists walking across on the green light and in crosswalks while their rate of distraction dropped considerably as well.

WalkWise Florida, originated in Tampa Bay, takes a targeted grassroots approach to educate key audiences about pedestrian safety. While it is free, the importance of the 15 to 30 minute community-based presentations are unequivocal as citizens learn about the state’s pedestrian safety laws and how their behaviors impact their safety and that of other roadway users. To encourage adoption of safe behaviors, the audience is invited to pledge to WalkWise, Bike Smart and Drive Safely (as they did at the USF event) and to become ambassadors for the program. By using an audience response system that gathers feedback to questions asked during the presentation, the program is having an impact. As such, “Pedestrianism” increased by more than 10 percent over the established baseline during the presentation, and participants who responded to an email survey reported a 90% retention rate two weeks later [3].

Dolman Law Group

While walking without distractions seems to have a common-sense solution, the problem is that many people will not adapt to not using their phone or think that they are skilled enough to multitask without getting hit by a car or hurt at home from a simple fall injury. The best advice to follow is never to walk while texting or talking on the phone. Continually, if texting, move out of the ways of others and stop on the sidewalk. Never cross the street while using an electronic device. Do not walk with headphones on. Be aware of surroundings at all times. Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available. If an individual must walk on the street, he or she should face oncoming traffic. Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street. Cross only at crosswalks.

These are just a few things to follow to make sure you are your loved ones are safe when crossing the road. You are just as responsible as a competent adult to pay attention to the road, just as drivers are compelled to do so as well. However, if an accident does occur, you may be entitled to compensation if you were paying attention to the road and crossing when it was appropriate. Sometimes cars or other motorists come out of left field and hit pedestrians. Florida law takes this very seriously, especially if motorists drive off. Gov. Rick Scott signed a regulation 2 years ago that strengthens the penalties for leaving the scene of a crash, making it a second-degree felony and requiring a mandatory minimum four year penalty for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

If you or anyone you know has been injured in a pedestrian accident or a hit and run, please call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group for a free scheduled consultation and evaluation. The number to dial is (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275



[1] http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?List=1f2e4535-5dc3-45d6-b190-9b49c7229931&ID=15&Web=36d1832e-7bc3-4029-98a1-317c5cd5c625
[2] http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-distracted-walking-20150327-story.html
[3] http://www.ghsa.org/html/files/pubs/sfped.pdf