This time last year, 31-year-old pedestrian Ira Meadows lost his life when he was hit by oncoming traffic on Coleman Road in Memphis. An eyewitness noticed Meadows was distracted by his cell phone when the accident occurred. The same type of tragedy occurred with the deaths of 15-year-old Christina Morris-Ward in Montgomery County near D.C. in October 2012 and a 68-year-old woman in Philadelphia’s Chinatown in May of this year. These are just a few of the increasingly numerous accidents involving distracted pedestrians using their cell phones.

You have heard from us many times before how deadly texting and driving is, but are you aware that texting and walking on city streets can also be very dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike? This post is not about placing blame on either pedestrians or drivers, but rather getting both to realize that being distracted on the road (in a car or on foot) is extremely hazardous for you and those around you.

What is Distracted Walking?

Distracted pedestrians (or distracted drivers) aren’t just texting while they’re walking. They could be engaging with social media or an app, listening to music through headphones or engrossed in a phone conversation. Really any activity that takes a pedestrian’s or driver’s attention off the road creates the potential for a car accident if one fails to notice the other.

Texting and Walking By the Numbers

Until recently, all we had to prove the dangers of texting and walking were the anecdotes like those at the beginning of the post. This meant people could brush off the warnings as stories about unlucky, careless people. Now, researchers are building a body of statistical evidence to factually prove both the dangers of texting and walking, and the likelihood that we or someone we know could be that distracted pedestrian who is hit.

While the number of pedestrian fatalities decreased from the 1970’s to the early 2000’s, they have been increasing since 2009. In 2013, it was estimated that a pedestrian death occurred every two hours.

While not all of those were related to pedestrians using their cell phones, in 2013, Ohio State University researchers scoured 100 emergency rooms across the U.S. and found that the number of distracted pedestrian injuries in 2010 was more than twice the number from 2005. Those numbers may be even greater in reality because as Ohio State University professor Jack Nasar points out, many texting and walking injuries likely go unreported because pedestrians may be hesitant to say they were distracted.

Why Is Distracted Walking a Problem?

How do we know that texting and walking is related to many pedestrian injuries? Research reports in the medical journal PLOS One state that walking and looking down at your phone alters your balance, posture, speed and ability to walk a straight line, much like drinking alcohol does.

The Injury Prevention journal published an additional study staged at 20 busy intersections in Seattle. Researchers observed that distracted pedestrians were 4 times more likely to fail to obey traffic signals than pedestrians who weren’t distracted.

Who are Distracted Pedestrians?

Pedestrians between the ages of 16 and 25 have been designated as the most likely group to be distracted when crossing a street. However, Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Pedestrian Safety poll found that 60% of those surveyed use phones while walking on the street, so distracted pedestrians aren’t necessarily confined to the 16 – 25 age range. If you think about it, as more and more people become attached to their smartphones, this problem could continue to escalate if we don’t generate awareness now.

How to Avoid Distracted Walking and Driving Injuries

The clearest way for all of us to avoid distracted walking and distracted driving injuries is to put down the phone and keep our focus on the road. At the very least, pedestrians and drivers should obey traffic signals, utilize and respect crosswalks and keep music at a volume that allows them to still hear traffic.

It’s also a good idea to watch out for pedestrians or drivers who refuse to put down their phones, and educate your children and friends on the dangers of distracted walking and driving. Most importantly, try to recognize that multitasking isn’t always beneficial to you or those around you. In fact, multitasking on the roadways can end someone’s life if your attention strays from exercising safety precautions.

Contact Your Memphis Car Accident Attorney

Because distracted walking and distracted driving cases can be complicated, it’s best to hire an experienced car accident attorney. That way, you can focus on recovering from your injuries and rest assured that we will handle the legal elements of your accident. If you have been injured in a distracted driving or distracted walking car accident, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation.