WASHINGTON — Distracted walkers are walking in front of cars and into trees. Staring down at cellphones, they fall off curbs and bridges, and even walk into wet cement. They have gotten cuts and bruises and head injuries. Some have even been killed. Many cities and states are designing and promoting walkable neighborhoods, partly to attract more young people. At the same time, some are also giving tickets to distracted walkers and lowering speed limits to make streets safer for pedestrians.
Pedestrian injuries caused by cellphone use are up 35 percent since 2010, according to numbers from hospital emergency rooms. Every year, thousands of pedestrians are injured as they walk in cities. Some researchers say 1 out of 10 of those injuries are caused by a distracting mobile device such as a phone or portable music player. Utah and New Jersey have given tickets to people who text in dangerous walking situations. New York City now has lower speed limits, in part to make traffic less dangerous for distracted walkers.
“We have to design streets for the way people actually behave, and behavior is changing,” said Noah Budnick of NYC-based Transportation Alternatives. “If you’re looking at a phone when you’re walking around, that shouldn’t mean death. So we have to design forgiving streets.” New York City’s new speed limits are 20 miles per hour (mph) in Central Park and 25 mph in the rest of the city unless otherwise posted. The city has also been blocking off more streets to make safer pedestrian plazas where cars are not allowed.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has given $1.6 million to Louisville, Kentucky; New York City and Philadelphia for walker-safety programs. “We’ve got to encourage people to have an awareness that this problem is a real problem,” Foxx said. In 2012, 78,000 pedestrians were injured. It is the highest number since 2001, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration. Also in 2012, 4,700 walkers were killed. That number has been increasing since 2009. It fell for several years before that. Some areas are focusing on stopping people who use cellphones while walking. Distracted walkers in Utah can get a $50 fine. In New Jersey, police gave tickets to people using phones while walking into traffic.
Philadelphia took a different approach. They made a joke of it. On April Fools’ Day 2012, the city painted “e-lanes” on sidewalks. These lanes were reserved for people staring at their phones. “We know that many, many people are using the sidewalks, looking at their iPhones, BlackBerrys, other electronic devices and they’re quite distracted by those devices, bumping into people,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a video, as a distracted walker bumped into him.
Minnesota, Utah, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington state have also begun pedestrian safety programs to reduce traffic deaths. San Francisco has pledged to spend $50 million on its Walk First program. The city will examine “high injury corridors” to determine why those areas are so dangerous. The plan also suggests raised crosswalks and traffic islands for pedestrians. Distracted driving is also causing more pedestrian deaths, researchers say. A driver and a walker each staring at their cellphone is a dangerous combination. In a survey last year by ;Liberty Mutual Insurance, half of pedestrians admitted to talking on the phone while walking across the street. One out of 4 said they text or email while crossing the street, even though they realize it is dangerous.
University of Buffalo researcher Dr. Dietrich Jehle estimates that 1 in 10 pedestrian injuries is now related to distracted walking. He believes distracted walking causes more accidents than distracted driving. Jehle studied the issue while working as an emergency room doctor. Texting is the most dangerous thing to do while walking, he said — more dangerous than listening to music or talking on the phone. A 2011 study found that texting makes walking extremely difficult. People in walking simulations had a 61 percent error rate while texting.
“While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can’t see the path in front of you,” Jehle said.
Part 1: Fill in the chart with:
Noun: Person, Place, Thing, or Idea
Verb: Shows Action
Adjective: Modifies a Noun
Article: Refers to a Noun (remember, only “THE”,” An”,” A” are articles)
Part of Speech
Noun, Verb, Article
What does it do? (Person, place, thing, idea) Or (Shows Action)
Modifies a Noun
Part 2: Stretch Question-Celebrate Writing
- According to paragraph 1, what are distracted walkers doing?
- According to paragraph 2, are injuries caused by cellphones up? Cite the line which supports this.
- According to paragraph 3, What is New York City doing to make streets safer for pedestrians?
- According to paragraph 4, what can happened to a distracted walker in Utah?
- Create a question based on the above information that you your classmates can answer to deepen their understanding.
- The transferable vocabulary word is designing. What does this word mean? Explain how the transferable vocabulary can be used in another subject?
Part 3: Work With a Partner
- Ask your partner if they agree with what is says in paragraph 4 about fining distracted walkers in Utah.
- Do you see anything negative about being a distracted walker? List them. You can use ideas from this article.
- Do you agree with what your partner said in question 7? Use the outline on the board for this question and answer. This question is worth more than all the others. Take your time writing your answer.
Use the outline on the board for #9