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Distracted Walking: Distracted Drivers Go For a Walk

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving has received a lot of attention recently due to the increasing number of accidents associated with drivers who are texting or talking on their cell phones while driving. New laws have been enacted across the country to restrict people from using their cell phones other than with Bluetooth and other handless devices. Enforcement of the laws and prosecution of the violators has become more common as the number of fatalities from distracted driving continues to grow.

But while Distracted Driving is finally receiving the attention and resources needed to make the public aware of the hazards of using their cell phone while driving, the associated phenomenon of Distracted Walking is still very under appreciated as a risky behavior. Pedestrian fatalities have increased due to people walking with their heads bent over their cell phones while they text, read the latest news headlines, play Candy Crush, or update their Facebook status. At least one-fourth of pedestrians have admitted to walking into other pedestrians while looking at their cell phones. Others have reported walking into telephone poles, falling into ditches, and worst of all, crossing the street without looking at traffic. Wearing headphones while looking at the cell phone adds to the already dangerous behavior, since the walker usually cannot even hear the warning horns of cars and buses when they step off the curb and into the pathway of oncoming traffic. Not surprisingly, a study conducted by Ohio State University found that Emergency Room visits due to Distracted Walking doubled between 2005-2010.

Data and anecdotal evidence shows that Distracted Walking is as dangerous as Distracted Driving. But as a society addicted to electronics, regulating let alone enforcing any kind of ban on cell phone use on sidewalks would be infeasible. In addition, some feel strongly that use of one's cell phone while walking should not be a matter of regulation but of personal responsibility, since the person at risk of injury is the user.

One thing people do agree on is that Distracted Walking deserves--and demands--a lot more attention than it is currently receiving. During this Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an educational campaign for Distracted Walking should be simultaneously implemented nationwide. Look up, America!

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