Distracted walking: 3 out of 5 pedestrians texting

By Posted : 06/11/2013

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

Liberty Mutual surveyed more than 1,000 people countrywide in April and found that 60 percent 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 percent 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. (See: "Crackdown on texting in 2013.")

"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 percent say they text or email while crossing streets -- with 55 percent of them admitting it's dangerous
  • 51 percent talk on the phone while navigating streets -- 50 percent recognize the risk
  • 46 percent dash across streets to beat oncoming traffic -- 40 percent acknowledge the hazards of jaywalking
  • 34 percent listen to music while crossing -- 25 percent 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 percent of motorists read or send texts while driving -- and 90 percent admit it's dangerous
  • 70 percent talk on a cell or smartphone while driving -- 59 percent know it's risky
  • 64 percent listen to loud music while driving -- 33 percent 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. (See: "Car insurance confessions: Motorists admit bad driving habits.")

In its recent study, "The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone 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 percent (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. See "Texting tickets and car insurance rates" for a full list of state texting laws and how they impact insurance.

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