We have learned a lot in recent years about the hazards of distracted driving. We are warned not to text and drive, and we are penalized if we are caught doing so (which is getting off easy, compared to the alternative). Distracted driving is an issue that is championed by many organizations, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). In addition to developing campaigns to raise awareness about distracted driving, the AAOS has expanded its efforts to prevent injuries by discussing the issue of distracted walking.
To learn more about this issue, researchers from the AAOS launched a distracted walking study. Approximately 2,000 people across the country participated in this responsive study, with 500 each coming from heavily populated cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, and Phoenix. They discovered the following:
Initial findings were quite interesting, with 78% percent of adults stating that they believed distracted walking to be a serious issue. At the same time, 75% of that initial number said it was "other people" who engaged in distracted walking. Less than 30% admitted to personally engaging in this habit. This "it's not me" sense related to several distracted behaviors, including:
- Ninety percent reported seeing others talking on phones while walking; only 37% said they did this themselves.
- Eighty-eight percent had seen other talking to another person while walking; 75% admitted this behavior.
- Eighty-eight percent saw others listening to earphones while walking; 34% said they did so.
- Eighty-five percent said others walked while using a smartphone; 28% said they did so.
- Sixty-four percent noticed that others looked generally "zoned-out" while walking; 38% admitted to not being fully present when walking.
More often than not, people seem to think that distracted walking is embarrassing in a funny way. According to this study, however, approximately 4 out of 10 people reported seeing a distracted walking incident, such as walking into a light pole or off a curb. Twenty-six percent of respondents admitted to having been in such an incident themselves. The survey suggested that women over the age of 55 were most likely to be injured by such an incident.
Walking and Talking, Can we Do It?
Walking and talking is one thing, but statistics suggest distracted walking could lead to injuries.
- When texting, a person's gait, walking pattern, and speed change.
- 69% of the distracted pedestrian injuries that occurred between 2004 and 2010 involved talking on the phone.
- According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted pedestrians may have been a relevant factor in the 70,000 injuries and 4,200 pedestrian deaths in 2010.
- An observation of 20 high-risk intersections in Seattle found that nearly one-third of pedestrians passed through these points while using a cell phone, texting, or listening to earphones. Texters took nearly two seconds longer to cross the intersection compared to those who were not distracted. Texters were also four-times more likely to exhibit behaviors such as failing to look both ways or ignoring traffic signals.
We should be able to engage in life as it is today while still practicing safety on the road, whether walking or driving. The key is to stay present. Turn the volume down on headphones. Focus on surroundings at all time. Look up, not down and follow the rules of the road.