Distracted walking, especially with a cell phone, results in a higher risk of pedestrian injury. As a result, more than 1,500 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2010, a new study finds.
The author of the study, Prof. Jack Nasar at The Ohio State University, adds that "cellphone use isn't just a danger to drivers," it can be hazardous to those who are simply walking, reports U.S. News and World Report.
Becoming a riskier pedestrian can also open you up to potential liability, which can be prevented.
Studies on distracted driving have found that even hands-free smartphone use is dangerous, and distracted walking appears to be no different.
Nasar's study found that the number of distracted walkers is increasing, with the annual estimate of cell phone-related pedestrian injuries jumping by about 1,000 people between 2007 and 2010.
Another study conducted at the University of Washington found that pedestrians who used any sort of mobile device were more likely to engage in dangerous behavior -- for example, not looking both ways before crossing the street.
Distractions Increase Liability
Although most pedestrians don't consider themselves potential targets for lawsuits, dangerous or distracted walkers can actually end up being sued for distracted walking.
In most pedestrian v. car accidents, both parties will attempt to prove that the other party was negligent. Pedestrians can be found negligent if they are too distracted to obey traffic signals or remain alert.
If a pedestrian is injured by a car while talking or texting on a phone, a jury may reduce her amount in recovery from the vehicle's driver in proportion to her own negligence.
Safe Pedestrian Habits
Although some law-enforcement agencies have stepped up their jaywalking patrols to ensnare distracted walkers who are too busy texting, there are a few things that pedestrians can do to prevent distracted walking. For example:
- Text or IM only when you are standing still;
- Avoid taking or making a phone call while on the street; and
- Turn down music when using headphones so emergency sirens and vehicle warnings can be heard.
Avoiding distracted walking with your smartphone might keep you out of the hospital -- and the courtroom as well.
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