Most people know that using your cell phone while driving a motor vehicle is extremely distracting, dangerous and illegal in many states. Fewer people know that driving while using electronics devices such as hands free cell phone or headphones is similarly distracting. However, almost nobody thinks about the dangers of talking on the phone or wearing headphones while walking, jogging or running.
People often talk on their cell phone while walking on sidewalks, including crossing the street-either inside or outside of crosswalks, and while walking around shopping areas and parking lots. Just as often, individuals wear headphones while jogging or walking on sidewalks, streets, parking lots or other public places.
A recent Journal of Injury Prevention article looked at the impact of headphone use on pedestrian safety. The study found that there were 116 reported cases of death or injury to pedestrians between 2004 and 2011. Of those injured, 68% were male, 67% were under the age of 30, 89% occurred in urban areas and 55% of these incidents involved a train. Incredibly, in almost one third of all accidents, a horn or siren was sounded before the collision.
The Ohio State University conducted a study that indicated that 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms, during a recent year, who had been injured because they were distracted and fell, tripped or ran into something while they were using a cell phone or texting.
The examples and injuries caused by distracted walking are as frequent as they are diverse. On one end of the spectrum, you have individuals who only receive minor injuries such as a teenage girl in New York City who fell six feet through an open manhole, while texting, into "raw sewage" and a man who tripped while talking on his phone and broke a finger. On the other, more serious end of the extreme, are a Florida teen who died when he walked in front of multiple oncoming vehicles while texting and a North Carolina college student who died when he jogged in front of a bus while listening to an iPod.
Another frightening and dangerous aspect of distracted walking, jogging or running involve young children who either have electronic devices including cell phones, music players, games or entertainment applications. Parents often give cell phones to their young children for safety purposes. However, the affects of using that cell phone in certain environments can be very dangerous. A study by the University of Birmingham found that children using cell phones were 20% less likely to look both ways before crossing a street, took 20% longer to cross the street and due to this were 43% more likely to be hit by a vehicle.
The American College of Emergency Physicians has issued a written warning stating that texting while driving, walking, biking or rollerblading can cause serious injury or death. So when you go to use that potentially distracting electronic device, be safe, be careful, be alert, be aware of your surroundings and educate your child about the potential hazards.