Published December 18, 2012
That text can probably wait
A recent study of pedestrians at some of Seattle’s busiest urban intersections confirms what many would believe is true: It’s not just motorists who are preoccupied by texting, checking emails or downloading music on their cellphones. About one-third of the pedestrians observed in high-risk intersections were distracted by mobile devices. Adding to the danger was this discovery: Only about 25 percent of the pedestrians in the study followed all the safety rules that apply to crossing a street, including looking both ways, using crosswalks and obeying traffic lights. Pedestrians can and do get injured and killed when they allow their mobile devices to hold sway over them when crossing the street. Add in a motorist distracted by a hand-held device and it’s an even bigger recipe for disaster. People may be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. But they clearly can’t text and cross busy intersections simultaneously without inviting a collision with a vehicle. The texting pedestrians appear to be the most prone toward flaunting safety rules. They also take on average about two seconds longer to cross a street. A whole generation of technologically savvy young people are growing up with cellphones as appendages, disinclined to turn them off long enough to cross a street. It’s going to take a lot of public education and outreach – and perhaps some broadening of jaywalking laws – to reverse some of the risky behavior exhibited by pedestrians.