Walk down any street in any city, big or small, and you’ll see people walking across the street, into crosswalks, onto roadways, through parking lots with moving traffic, and along sidewalks, never looking up from their cell phones as they text or email. Worse, there have been numerous YouTube videos of people walking into telephone poles, falling into lakes, falling onto train tracks, tripping on uneven areas of the sidewalk or into holes, colliding with other pedestrians on the sidewalk, or, in one heavily viewed video, a woman walks into the wall of a fountain in a mall, falling directly into the water while passersby look on. It may seem funny at first to see someone walking into a pole or wall when looking down at their screens. But some accidents are anything but humorous.
Everywhere you go, you’ll see people on their phones. They’re talking. They’re texting. They’re listening to music and playing video games. What they’re not doing is paying attention. And that lack of attention can turn any one of them into one of the pedestrians who are killed or injured each year. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury as a pedestrian due to no fault of their own, our knowledgeable team of accident attorneys is here to help. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, our highly experienced personal injury attorneys may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. We help clients throughout Upstate New York, with offices in multiple convenient locations. Our extensive experience in the medical malpractice field is reflected in the results we have achieved for our clients.
Almost every adult in the United States uses a cell phone on a daily basis. While walking, most of us are guilty of checking emails, sending texts, or browsing social media. While doing two things at once can save time, using your phone while walking is riskier than you may realize. In fact, according to a recent study, texting while walking is riskier than listening to music or talking on the phone. Pedestrians who are constantly connected and unable to put down their phones are more likely to be involved in a car accident.
Between 2005 and 2015, the National Safety Council (N.S.C.) estimates that over 11,000 people were injured in cell phone-related walking accidents. Some of these collisions cause serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries, and permanent disabilities.
Headphones and earbuds are causing an increase in injuries. The danger of looking down at a screen is not the only danger that electronic devices pose to pedestrians. Wireless headphones and earbuds are becoming increasingly popular, causing pedestrians to become more disconnected from their surroundings.
Larger style headphones cover an individual’s entire ear, muffling sounds that alert them to traffic hazards such as car horns, bicycle bells, people shouting, or emergency sirens. Some of these styles even include noise cancellation options in addition to music listening and muting helpful warning sounds.
In the long run, smaller earbuds can be even more dangerous. According to a Medium article, this type of headphone sits directly next to the ear canal but provides no noise isolation. As a result, pedestrians frequently increase the volume to better hear what they are listening to, potentially damaging their hearing in the process.
Along with music, pedestrians use headphones and earbuds to talk on the phone. The hands-free option tricks pedestrians into thinking they are multitasking when they are not. The human brain cannot do two things at the same time. You may believe you are talking on the phone while paying attention to your surroundings, but your brain is rapidly switching between the two. When talking hands-free on your phone while walking, you can miss up to 50% of your surroundings, and headphones can reduce the additional warning noises to alert your attention to the road.
Anyone with a cell phone is vulnerable to texting and walking injuries, but some age groups are more vulnerable than others. According to the N.S.C., people aged 10 to 14 and 50 to 69 have at least 20% more pedestrian deaths per year than other age groups. Teens are also more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents involving cell phones in general. Texting and social media chats are the primary ways that today’s youth communicate with friends and family. The constant texting allows them to be caught with their heads down more often, increasing their risk of an accident on busy roads.
It appears that warning people to “put down their phones” has little effect on their behavior. Instead, to reduce the growing number of pedestrian traffic fatalities, New York lawmakers are considering a statewide ban on cell phone habits such as texting and walking. Senate Bill S5746, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Transportation Committee, seeks to fine pedestrians who are caught on their screens while crossing a roadway for dangerous use of portable electronic devices. The term ‘portable electronic device’ refers to any handheld device that is used to input, write, send, receive, or read data, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), handheld devices with mobile data access, laptops, pagers, electronic games, and portable computing devices are all examples of PDAs. The proposed fine range for these offenses is $25 to $250. Pedestrians trying to contact someone in an emergency, such as a doctor, hospital, fire department, or law enforcement officer, are exempt from the law.
While advancements in safety technology and programs that raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving have increased the survivability of victims in accidents involving a distracted driver, pedestrians continue to be vulnerable to serious and fatal injuries when struck by a motor vehicle.
While pedestrians cannot eliminate the risk of negligent drivers’ unsafe behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving, and others that contribute to pedestrian accidents, they can reduce the risk of collisions with cars by remaining alert to traffic and the roadway.
The University of Ohio conducted a study of 1,500 pedestrians who were injured while using their cell phones and were treated in emergency rooms. According to the study, texting pedestrians were six times more likely to be injured than five years ago. This research included a teenager who fell into a ditch after walking off a bridge and a 23-year-old man who was hit by a car and suffered hip injuries after walking into the street without looking.
Safe Kids Worldwide conducted a survey, and 40% of the 1,000 teens polled admitted to being hit or nearly hit by a car while walking. 85% of those polled said they were listening to music, texting, or talking on their phones when they were hit or nearly hit. The director of the emergency department at St. John’s Medical Center said he sees a lot of patients with orthopedic injuries from tripping on the sidewalk while walking and hitting their heads or breaking a limb. The problem is exacerbated when the pedestrian is listening to music, sending, or reading a text or email, and not looking at what is in front of them.
A car traveling at 35 miles per hour is moving at about 50 feet per second, and it usually takes about 170 feet to stop if the driver is paying attention. Thus, if a pedestrian walks directly into the street without first checking to see if the walk sign or green light is illuminated, it will take approximately three seconds for the car to come to a stop, and there is a significant risk of a collision. It appears that pedestrians who are texting simply assume that the driver is paying attention and will stop, regardless of the color of the light or the speed of the car, which is a very dangerous assumption.
A word of advice to those who insist on texting while walking on sidewalks, into crosswalks, or on the roadway: look up frequently to see what is in front of you; remove one bud if you are listening to music; Also, before crossing the street, make sure you have a walk sign or a green light!
If you or a family member has been injured due to a pedestrian’s negligent behavior, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano for a free consultation to discuss your case in detail. From the beginning of the case to the end, our experienced and dedicated attorneys will fight the insurance companies and their defense counsel to maximize your compensation for physical and mental injuries, past, present, and future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, loss of earning potential, and loss of enjoyment of life. We represent injured clients and their families throughout Upstate New York, including Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn, Ithaca, Oswego, Norwich, Herkimer, Delhi, Cooperstown, Cortland, Lowville, Oneida, Watertown, Utica, Canandaigua, Wampsville, Lyons, and surrounding areas. Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form to discuss your case.