No one can honestly dispute the fact that distracted driving can have some very serious and catastrophic consequences for anyone traveling on the nation’s roadways these days. Now, however, according to several recent studies, pedestrians are also putting themselves and drivers in danger when they are walking down the street using a hand-held electronic device.
Millions of people have seen surveillance videos published on the internet of people falling into mall fountains, falling onto subway tracks, falling down steps, walking into walls or people and increasingly, walking into traffic. A study conducted by Stony Brook University in New York in January of this year reports that cell phone use by pedestrians “leads to increased cognitive distraction, reduced situation awareness and an increase in unsafe behavior.” Participants in the study who used a cell phone to text while walking veered off course by about a 60% deviation and significantly slowed walking speed which caused their walking trip to take 16% longer.
Another study by the University of Alabama Academy of Pediatrics in 2009 found that young pedestrians who text or talk on cell phones while walking on or near a street are 40% more likely to get hit by a vehicle. They are much less attentive to traffic and the
younger the children are, the higher the risk of being hit. The trends with young adults walking and using cell phones and being involved in an accident appear to be similar to those of young children.
An article in the Christian Science Monitor underscores the increasing dangers of what many government and safety experts are calling the serious and growing problem of walking while distracted. Reports from hospital emergency rooms across the country indicate that injuries to people talking and texting have more than quadrupled in the past 7 years, and according to the Governors Highway Safety Association the figures are most likely underreported. Different states are making some attempts to curb the behavior, but officials are wondering “how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves.”
So in these waning days of summer when tourists and pedestrians come out in droves to enjoy the last of the summer sun and fun, the professional limousine driver is faced with another factor impacting safety. You have to be aware of those who aren’t paying attention and drifting into the roadways, into your blind spots and into your vehicle as they don’t watch where they are going. Keep your eyes moving, look several times before making a right or left turn, especially when driving a larger vehicle where your vision may be restricted, and always, slow down whenever pedestrians are present.