A recent survey by the Pew Research Center indicated that far too many people in the U.S. do not recognize the danger of walking on or near roadways while distracted. Roughly 77% of respondents felt that using mobile devices while walking down streets was an acceptable practice. Over 65% of those in the U.S. own a smart phone and they are used increasingly by those driving and walking.
Between 2000 and 2011 there were over 11,000 injuries among those walking while distracted and the number have surged since. By 2013, there were a reported 1,150 emergency room visits; however, this statistic does not include the many injured who did not specifically mention (reveal) being distracted. The 2017 Governors Highway Safety Association data showed that pedestrian deaths rose to 6,000 in 2016.
Prevalence in D.C. & Maryland
Deborah Hersman of the National Safety Council labeled the practice as “really dangerous”. The Maryland Department of Highway Safety reported that pedestrians incurred 3,300 injuries and 111 fatalities statewide in 2016. In D.C.’s Chinatown region a 68-year-old Texas woman was struck and killed while using her iPad while crossing a street recently. A report in the early part of 2017 said that there were already 28 fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists in D.C. so far for the year. Renee Moore, representing the Washington Bicyclist Association, explained that when vehicle collisions occur while traveling at 20 mph the pedestrian survival rate is 90%, but sinks to only 20% at 40 mph.
Other U.S. City Initiatives
Fort Lee, New Jersey implemented a ban on texting for those walking, which imposes an $85 fine. Both Honolulu and Chicago have also passed similar ordinances. In 2016, over 60 pedestrians in Chicago were killed while walking. Alan Hilibrand, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, says that approximately 60% of pedestrians are significantly distracted. He says there are increasingly more patients appearing in his emergency room after being hit by cars.
Constant Mobile Device Usage
CNN reported on a study conducted by Common Sense Media that 50% of teenagers and over 27% of parents admit to being “addicted” to their mobile devices. The Office of Traffic Safety, explains that when pedestrians use mobile devices they move at a slower pace, frequently travel the wrong way and greatly reduce their ability to accurately perceive depth. Among those injured, over 60% are women.
D.C. Area Prevention Activity
The D.C. District Department of Transportation began a Vision Zero program promoting “safe streets for Washington D.C.” The goal is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries to zero by 2024. Officers are increasing enforcement, particularly in the downtown area, and can issue warnings for minor violations and tickets. Another program known as “Street Smart” has been implemented on a regional level. This is between D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia to improve the actions of those on the roadways. It is based on laws relating to drivers, pedestrians, and bicycle riders; violators may face fines of up to $500.