As our children get older, they start to have more independence. Whether they start walking to school or biking to hang out at a friend’s house, they are starting to get themselves places. Many of us parents give them a phone at this stage so we can communicate with them. With the phone comes responsibility to remain focused on the task at hand and to continue to make their arrival a safe arrival. To accomplish that, teach them no texting while walking.
Multitasking or Autopilot?
Peruse any online job board and you’ll find post after post from companies seeking individuals with exceptional multitasking skills. Multitasking is an art valued throughout the globe, but this highly-valued skill is built on a misconception. Time and time again, studies have proven that humans cannot actually multitask. In fact, when we try to do two things at once, what we’re really doing is alternating attention from one activity to the other. Our attention is never divided evenly, which means that one activity is put on autopilot.
Likewise, those who attempt to text and walk are walking on autopilot while focusing almost entirely on texting. This is the reason why videos of people walking into poles, water fountains, or cellar doors while texting go viral. These videos may be funny. But the reality is there are videos of people who have walked and texted and have felt the consequences. People have fallen on train tracks, tripped in crosswalks, collided with bicycles, and have been either seriously injured or killed.
Distracted walking is a dangerous trend on the rise. Teenagers and young adults seem to be the ones more prone to this unsafe habit. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, about 50% of pedestrian accident deaths resulting from car accidents happened to teens between the ages of 15 and 19, and the major cause was distracted walking. They also discovered that one in five high schoolers who crossed the street were reportedly distracted by texting, playing video games, or listening to music.
While texting while walking might not be as dangerous as distracted driving, it does come with its own set of consequences.
Distracted Walking Could Cause You Serious Injuries and Even Death
Thousands of automobile accidents occur every year in the United States, and a percentage of those involve ordinary pedestrians who were simply going about their daily lives.
Although negligent drivers who were either distracted by their mobile phones or under the influence of alcohol or drugs cause a majority of these accidents, an increasing number of cases suggest that distracted walking is a major cause of these accidents.
Distracted walking poses a serious threat to individuals and others on the street. Being hit by a vehicle is no joke. It can cause serious injuries that can lead to severe disabilities and even death. The National Safety Council reported that there were 5,987 pedestrian fatalities in 2016, which was a 9% increase from 2015 and the highest number since the early 1990s.
In light of increasing pedestrian fatalities and distracted walking incidences, some cities have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Distracted Walking Is Against the Law In Certain U.S. Cities
Depending on where you live, there may be more than your life on the line for texting while walking. In fact, some cities have implemented laws that could leave you with fines for up to $100 for using your phone while crossing the street.
Honolulu was the first major U.S. city to implement distracted walking laws in July of 2017. The laws only prevent pedestrians from using any kind of electronic device while crossing the street. There is no penalty for using an electronic device while walking on a street sidewalk. First time offenders can be subject to fines between $15 and $35.
Honolulu isn’t the only city with distracted walking laws. The city of Fort Lee, NJ banned walking and texting in 2012. More recently, Montclair, a southern California city implemented similar laws in February of this year.
Distracted walking laws have been met with both praise and harsh criticism. Some fear the laws are an infringement on rights while others truly believe these regulations are saving lives. There hasn’t been enough research to determine if these laws are helping. But Fort Lee seems content with their 5 year old texting ban.
Just Put The Phone Down
Regardless of whether or not there are texting while walking laws in your city, it’s to your benefit to put your phone down while crossing a street. The last thing you want to become is another number on a list of distracted walking fatality statistics. Your texts, calls, emails, and social media updates can wait until you’ve safely arrived at the other side of the crosswalk.
While safety organizations and thought leaders have done an excellent job of promoting campaigns to end distracted driving, we need to start discussing how we can end distracted walking. This discussion needs to start between parents and their children. Encouraging parents to talk to their teens and tweens about the dangers surrounding texting while walking is crucial. Informing our children is the first step all parents need to take to prevent distracted walking accidents.
Guest post: Alex Megeredchian is the founder and lead attorney at Megeredchian Law in Glendale, CA. Alex fiercely advocates for road safety both in and outside of the courtroom.
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