Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street

texting while walking
Texting while walking is dangerous, but too many of us do it anyway.
(cc) Matthew Kenwrick

You’d think that everyone — at least every adult — would know how to cross the street. Even young children will tell you to look both ways before stepping out. Unfortunately, the rise of smartphones seems to have given rise to stupidpeople. (We mean that in the nicest possible terms.) Proof: A survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance that found that 60 percent of pedestrians walk while texting, emailing, talking on the phone, or listening to music, leading to an increase in pedestrian fatalities.

According to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Survey, while 70 percent of us believe it’s dangerous to text, email, talk on the phone, or listen to music while walking, 60 percent of us do it anyway. At the same time, the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates there were 4,280 pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents in 2010, a 4 percent increase over the previous year.

David Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety, noted, “So much attention has been paid, and rightly so, to distracted driving that we have ignored the fact that distracted walking and crossing can be just as risky.” Emphasizing that smartphones don’t really make us smarter, Melton continues, “From an early age, we all learn how to safely cross the street — look both ways, wait for the walk sign — but as adults many of us seem to forget those simple rules.”

Of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed by Liberty Mutual Insurance, the majority of respondents (55 percent) consider texting or emailing while crossing a street to be the most dangerous activity when walking — more so than those who feel running across a street to beat oncoming traffic (40 percent) or jaywalking (24 percent) to be the most dangerous.

Such pedestrian safety concerns are valid, as a 2011 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after being injured while walking and using a cell phone or some other electronic device.

More results from the survey …

  Consumers that engage in activity Consumers that find the activity dangerous
Text or email while crossing the street 26% 55%
Run across the street to beat oncoming traffic 46% 40%
Talk on the phone while crossing the street 51% 26%
Listen to music while crossing the street 34% 25%

Drivers Prioritize Phones over Pedestrians

According to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Survey findings, like pedestrians, drivers do realize the dangers of their actions but do not modify them for safety. For example, three in five drivers say talking on the cell phone while driving is dangerous for pedestrians, yet 70 percent still admit to doing so.

Likewise, drivers realize that talking on the phone, texting, and listening to loud music is dangerous for pedestrians yet a significant percentage of respondents continue to engage in behavior they recognize as risky.

  Drivers that engage in activity Drivers that rate the activity dangerous for pedestrians
Read or send text messages while driving 38% 90%
Talk on a cell phone while driving 70% 59%
Listen to music at high volumes while driving 64% 33%

“The reality is that neither drivers nor pedestrians seem to actually realize the dangers of their distracted behaviors,” added Melton. “The fact that drivers and pedestrians continue to engage in dangerous habits, despite claiming to recognize the risk, suggests that the majority of Americans are taking a cavalier, ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. As the weather warms up and we head into the summer driving season, pedestrians and drivers need to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of everyone on the roads, whether on foot or behind the wheel.”

If you must text or talk while walking, at least do it in style with an Apple iPhone from Amazon.