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Jul 01, 2019 04:43 PM EDT

The Rise of ‘Pedextrians’ and Accidents Involving Distracted Walkers


Distracted driving has received more than its fair share of media attention - and rightfully so - but texting and smartphone use has created another growing problem: distracted walking. Known as "pedextrians," the number of accidents and injuries involving distracted pedestrians is on the rise.

More Pedestrians are Distracted by Smartphones

A study out of Ohio State University found that the number of accidents involving emergency room visits for walking and texting has doubled every single year since 2006. The number is expected to continue to double.

Another study from the University of Maryland Medical Center looked at injuries involving pedestrians wearing headphones. According to their findings, there were 116 deaths or injuries between 2004 and 2011 - primarily men under 30 in urban areas.

Lawmakers, law enforcement and researchers have spent a great deal of time and energy focusing on distracted driving, but distracted walking is becoming an increasingly common problem.

Early Adoption of Technology and Its Role in Distracted Walking Among Teens

According to, American children receive their first smartphone at the age of 10. Children of this age are unable to walk, talk and text at the same time. Because they're easily engrossed in video games and text conversations, they lack the awareness to stop at intersections, watch for oncoming traffic, or move out of the way of bicyclists or other pedestrians.

As more children become engrossed in their digital worlds, they become increasingly disconnected and unaware of the physical world around them. In 2018 alone, children between the ages of 13 and 17 sent 8,000 messages per month. The more time children spend engrossed in their digital lives, the less time they're spending paying attention to the road and watching where they're walking.

Pedextrians and Campus Accidents

The problem of distracted walking extends to college campuses, too. A 2018 article published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information cited research which showed that one-third of pedestrians crossing busy intersections at the urban campuses of Old Dominion University and University of Alabama were distracted by mobile devices.

Previous studies in earlier years had similar or slightly lower findings, which suggests that the problem is increasing.

Currently, there are little-to-no efforts to alert college students of the dangers of looking at their smartphones while crossing streets on campus. Some experts suggest that the low speed limits on campus make students believe that cars will stop for them.

Should Texting and Walking be Illegal?

As pedestrians become increasingly distracted by their smartphones, many people wonder whether the practice should be outlawed. Laws against texting and driving have been passed throughout the country. Would laws against texting and walking help solve the problem?

Lawmakers in New York state are considering a bill that would make it illegal for pedestrians to email, text, browse the internet or use social media while crossing the street.

A distracted walking law is already in place in Honolulu, Hawaii. The law, which was passed in 2017, imposes a $15 minimum fine for a first violation and increasing fines for further offenses.

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