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New study says 30 percent of pedestrians are distracted

We have all heard about the dangers of distracted drivers; but new research shows that pedestrians can be equally at fault for exhibiting distracting behaviors while crossing the street.

According to researchers -- who observed more than 1,100 pedestrians crossing the street at 20 "high-risk" intersections -- 29.8 percent of pedestrians they observed were distracted when they crossed the street. The distractions were centered on tech equipment: 11.2 percent were listening to music; 7.3 percent were texting someone; and 6.2 percent were making a phone call on a cell phone.

Another major point from the study is that the texting pedestrians took substantially longer to actually get across the road than other pedestrians -- 18 percent longer, in fact. That means they are not only less likely to notice an oncoming vehicle, but they are also granting vehicles more of an opportunity to hit them.

Certainly this study is alarming; it points to the need for improved pedestrian safety measures, in addition to a change in attitude of pedestrians. It may sound silly, but using your cell phone while walking is just dangerous. Take a step to the side, stop what you're doing and send a text or phone call if you absolutely have to.

However, this study should be taken with a grain of salt. The "distracted" label is being placed on these pedestrians simply based on appearance. It is certainly possible that many of these pedestrians were, indeed, paying attention to the road. It is possible to listen to music and still obey traffic signals or watch for oncoming cars. Motor vehicles need to be paying as much attention as they can while approaching an intersection so that they avoid a collision with pedestrians.

Source: The Atlantic, "Study: 1 in 3 People Is Distracted by Their Phone While Crossing Busy Streets," James Hamblin, April 15, 2013

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