Distracted walking

Here’s something from the “duh” files: A new study confirms what we already knew — that people are distracted by their mobile phones, and it’s not just when they’re behind the wheel.

The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, observed the behavior of 1,102 Seattle pedestrians at 20 high-risk intersections at randomized times. The researchers found that nearly a third of pedestrians there cross busy intersections while using a mobile device. While some hit the pavement gabbing up a storm or listening to music, texting was found to be the riskiest behavior.

Text messagers were found to be four times less likely to look both ways before crossing the street, follow traffic lights or cross at designated places. They also took their time crossing, spending an average of nearly two extra seconds lingering in the intersection.

Vehicle-pedestrian accidents hurt 60,000 people and kill 4,000 every year in the U.S. In 2011 alone, more than 1,100 pedestrians nationwide hit emergency rooms due to mobile phone use while walking. And that’s just the self-reported figure. Real world incidences probably dwarf that number. Just today, I saw a lady who was completely absorbed in her phone walk into oncoming traffic against the light. Luckily she didn’t get nailed by a car, but that driver almost hit a bus trying to avoid her.

So take this as a public service announcement, or pass it around to any phone-addicted pals you have: Stop texting while crossing the street. There is no situation that can’t wait an extra 10 seconds for you pass that intersection safely.