An Underrated Pedestrian Safety Concern in Atlanta: Distracted Walking

In 2013, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 2,910 fatal crashes caused by distraction. Most people understand the dangers of distracted driving, but many fail to consider the dangers of distracted walking and its effect on pedestrian safety in Atlanta.

Distracted Pedestrians: An Atlanta Epidemic

Researchers at the University of Georgia observed pedestrian behavior at 20 “high-risk” intersections, which they reported in 2013. They noted that close to 50 percent of pedestrians were distracted while crossing at an intersection. Distractions included:

  • Talking to other people: 33 percent
  • Wearing headphones: 26 percent
  • Texting: 15 percent
  • Talking on the phone: 13 percent
  • Multiple distractions: 6 percent

Researchers also noted that pedestrians who were distracted spent longer in the street and often crossed unsafely, e.g., not looking both ways, not checking if the light was red.

Distracted Walking Causes Accidents in Atlanta

Pedestrian fatalities in Atlanta are a major cause for concern. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, between 2009 and 2013, there were:

  • 34 pedestrian fatalities in Fulton County
  • 21 pedestrian fatalities in Dekalb County

A study out of Ohio State University in 2014 found that, from 2004 to 2010, the number of pedestrians in the U.S. killed while actively using a mobile device increased from 1 percent to 3.6 percent.

The Ohio State research team also stated in its study that in 2010 an estimated 1,500 pedestrians suffered injuries while walking due to their cell phone use. Because the trend over time has been an increase in pedestrian injuries, it is likely that the issue of distracted walking will continue to grow and result in more injuries and fatalities to pedestrians.

Are cell phones the only distraction?

While cell phones and tablets are the most prevalent causes of distraction while walking, other things commonly take walkers' minds off their surroundings. Eating, drinking, or carrying items can take a person's attention off where they are going and what is going on around them.

Cognitive distractions are also a common reason pedestrians can lose track of their surroundings and end up in harm's way. Some walkers take leisurely strolls to enjoy the world around them and get lost in thought. Others take walks to clear their head and end up letting their thoughts consume their attention.

Improving Pedestrian Focus While Walking

Allowing your eyes, ears, and mind to focus on walking and your environment is an important part of walking safety. First, avoid anything that takes your eyes off the path before and around you. Avoid using headphones that block your ability to hear approaching vehicles or sirens. Additionally, keep your mind clear to focus on watching for approaching hazards such as vehicles, broken sidewalks, or other obstacles.

An estimated 18 percent of all injury crashes were caused by distraction in 2013. If you were involved in a distraction-related car crash as either a passenger or a driver in Atlanta, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. is here to help. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for a FREE consultation regarding your legal options: 404-474-0804.