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Distracted pedestrians walk into dangers and injury

With our increasing dependence on cellphones and mobile technology, more pedestrians are dangerously walking into hazards. According to government officials and safety experts, distracted walking is becoming a growing problem and a hazard, especially in high-traffic urban areas like New York City. Cellphones, Ipods, and other handheld devices can distract pedestrians from the very serious dangerous around them.

Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at the emergency room has more than quadrupled in the past 7 years and is believed to still be underreported. There has also been a spike in pedestrian deaths and traffic accidents, however no reliable data linked the accidents to distracted walking.

Consider the following dangerous scenarios:

  • A man on a cellphone meanders on a train platform, stumbles, loses his balance and falls into the tracks
  • Distracted pedestrians cross into intersections while looking at cellphones, not oncoming traffic
  • A woman is walking around a shopping center on her cellphone, but cannot see the stairwell in front of her
  • A woman walks into a telephone pole while texting
  • A man walks into a ditch on the side of the road while talking on a cellphone
  • A young boy is distracted by a video game and is clipped by a pickup truck when he crosses the street
  • A pedestrian is struck by a cyclist who is riding while on his cellphone

State and local officials are struggling to determine how to best respond to distracted walking and are wondering how far the government should go to help people avoid such dangers. Some states have implemented public safety awareness campaigns urging pedestrians to "Look up." State transit systems have barred pedestrians from using cellphones, headphones and other hand held devices while on the tracks.

Many bus drivers and train engineers have reported that they have nearly hit pedestrians who did not hear their horns because they were distracted by electronic devices. There have been several people hit and killed by trains because they were wearing headphones.

What do you think? Should New York authorities step in and ban distracted walking? Are pedestrians responsible for their own safety?

Source: USA Today, "Distracted pedestrians stumble into danger," July 30, 2012.

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