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Another road hazard: Distracted pedestrians

Call it walking while intexticated. Many Americans admit to walking while looking at a mobile device. And most of the offenders know that such behavior carries a heavy risk.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 24, 2013 2:44PM
This post comes from Mark Chalon Smith at Insurance.com.

Insurance.com logoWatch where you're going: Texting while walking can be dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians.

Businessman using cell phone near busy street (© Mint Images - Tim Pannell/Photodisc/Getty Images)Liberty Mutual surveyed more than 1,000 people countrywide in April and found that 60% routinely read and send texts and emails, talk on their cell or smartphones, and listen to music while walking. Seventy percent realize they may be increasing the chance of getting hit by a vehicle.

The insurer suggests such distractions may have been a contributing factor to the 4,280 pedestrian deaths in traffic crashes in 2010, a 4% increase from the previous year, as reported in the latest data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

David Melton, Liberty Mutual's managing director of global safety, says the public should be as aware of distracted walking as it is of distracted driving.

"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," Melton says in a statement. "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."

Melton continues: "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."

Here are the survey's key points:
  • 26% of respondents say they text or email while crossing streets -- with 55% of them acknowledging that it's dangerous.
  • 51% talk on the phone while navigating streets -- 50% recognize the risk.
  • 46% dash across streets to beat oncoming traffic -- 40% acknowledge the hazards of jaywalking.
  • 34% listen to music while crossing -- 25% understand the risk.

The insurer also cites a 2011 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that says 1,152 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms after being injured while using a cellphone or some other electronic device.

Those surveyed were also asked about their driving habits, revealing these behaviors:

  • 38% of motorists read or send texts while driving -- and 90% admit it's dangerous.
  • 70% talk on a cell or smartphone while driving -- 59% know it's risky.
  • 64% listen to loud music while driving -- 33% realize it's hazardous.

While Liberty Mutual's report raises awareness about pedestrian behavior, the primary focus for safety advocates and lawmakers continues to be distracted driving, especially texting.

In its recent study, "The impact of hand-held and hands-free cellphone use on driving performance and safety-critical event risk," NHTSA found that visual-manual tasks associated with handheld phones and other mobile devices raised the odds of getting into a crash by three times.
The report notes that texting, browsing and dialing took drivers' eyes off the road the longest. Texting impacted a driver for an average of 23.3 seconds total, which increased the risks of an accident or near-accident by two times. The visual-manual effort to complete a phone call -- such as reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing -- increased the risk by three times.

The report also pointed out that 13% (or 408 people) of the 3,092 deaths in 2012 due to distracted driving were related to at least one of the drivers using a phone at the time of the accident.

Texting -- the car insurance implications
A texting ticket may result in your insurance rates going up, but it depends on your insurer and what the laws are in your home state.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that, currently, 39 states have banned texting and driving, while others have partial restrictions. Be aware that if you're ticketed in a state where texting violations add points to your driving record or are considered moving violations, an insurer may raise your premiums. 

More from Insurance.com:
8Comments
Jun 24, 2013 4:09PM
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I will NOT move out of the way for someone who is staring at their phone and texting while walking. I stand right there and let them actually STOP doing this for a second. (They do give me dirty looks, but I don't care.) THESE PEOPLE ARE DRIVING AND DOING THIS TOO, FOLKS!
Jun 24, 2013 4:43PM
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There should be laws for this & cops should be able to write tickets for the offenders...probably would add a lot of money to the town's receivables & keep taxes down.
Jun 24, 2013 6:10PM
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As an avid walker (6 miles a day), I think attention still needs to placed on drivers. At least once per week, a vehicle will make a right turn in front of me as I step off the sidewalk in a crosswalk at a stoplight. This usually occurs as soon as the light turns green, because the driver doesn't bother to check for pedestrians before turning. Another danger for pedestrians are the spandex warriors (cyclists) who insist on speeding down the sidewalks as fast as they can go instead of using bike lanes and the streets. They usually travel in packs, force pedestrians to yield the sidewalk to them, and then shout obscenities for slowing them down. 

 

     As far as listening to music while walking is concerned, someone will have to explain to me how this differs from listening to your car radio while driving.

 

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