Distracted Walking and the Threat to Your Safety

Our smartphones keep us connected to current events in real time. Unfortunately, they also pose a distraction that can prove to be quite dangerous. According to Stateline, which reviews emergency room visit data, pedestrian accidents due to cell phone use have increased by over a third since 2010. Sometimes the injuries are innocuous, like bumps and bruises. But in some cases, distracted walking can lead to serious injury or death.

In Queens, New York, a woman was struck and killed by a bus while talking on her phone. In another incident, a 14-year-old boy was using his phone when he fell eight feet off a bridge, severely injuring his chest and shoulders. While a simple perusal of YouTube will produce a stream of videos of people walking into road posts and into ditches, the statistics are anything but amusing. Between 2004 and 2010, emergency rooms visits due to cell phone use have doubled. Distracted walking clearly poses a compelling threat to public health, but what is being done about it?

Introducing Legislation

To combat the number of serious injuries and fatalities, state governments and municipalities are starting to impose fees for walking distractedly. Fort Lee, NJ, has banned cell phone usage while jaywalking and imposes a $54 ticket for anyone caught drifting in and out of the crosswalk. In Rexburg, Idaho, pedestrians can be fined $101.50 for using their cell phones in a crosswalk.

Other attempts to introduce legislation have fallen flat. In New Jersey, an attempt to name September Distracted Walking Awareness Month never made it out of committee. In five states, legislation has been introduced – but never passed. Critics point to a problem in the definition of distraction. Is talking on the phone distracted walking? Texting? Emailing? All of the above? Others argue it becomes a liability issue, as pedestrians are generally protected when it comes to the law.

Still others argue the legislation is just the government’s latest attempt to create a nanny state. But this is not an effort to curb soda consumption; distracted walking poses an immediate threat to pedestrians and causes serious doubts about liability for drivers on the road.

Making Road Improvements

When negotiations for creating law fall flat, policymakers turn to the next best thing: urban planning changes. Some hope that by making the city more walkable, pedestrian accidents will decrease. The US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, approved $2 million dollars in grants to be used for pedestrian safety initiatives. The bulk of these funds were given to New York City, Philadelphia, and Louisville. The cities used them to block off streets to make more pedestrian plazas for walking, as well as lowering the speed limit in high injury areas. In Central Park, for example, the speed limit has been lowered from 25 to 20 mph.

As of now, there is no current legislation in the works to improve pedestrian safety in Boston. If policymakers decide to dedicate funds to fighting distracted walking, they should focus first on the Back Bay intersection, which was recently found to be the most dangerous intersection in the city.

Finding the Right Attorney

If you have been injured while walking on the road, you may feel you are entitled to compensation. If you are struggling under the weight of medical bills or are still living with the effects of an injury, the personal injury law firm at Sweeney Merrigan may be able to help. We are a family law firm with generations of experience, and we take pride in advocating for your rights. If you have any questions, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

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