Technological distractions can cause pedestrians to fail to notice nearby or approaching dangers such as moving vehicles, broken sidewalks, trenches, etc. Known as “pedtextrians,” individuals who focus on their phone or tablet instead of paying attention to their surroundings are at serious risk of injury or death. Parents can help protect their children by teaching them when it is safe, and when it is not safe, to use their phones in public.
Children and Technology
In the US, children receive their first smartphone at around age 10. At this age, children do not have the ability to “multitask” walking, texting, and talking at the same time. Many are easily engrossed in text conversations, video games, and other electronic distractions. While distracted, these “pedtextrian” children are unable to watch for oncoming traffic, stop at intersections, move out of the path of cyclists, etc.
Children are increasingly using technology to communicate with their friends and family while neglecting to notice the world around them. In 2010, children ages 13 to 17 sent approximately 3,400 messages a month. As of 2018, that number had nearly tripled to almost 8,000 per month. The more time these children spend texting, the less time they spend scanning the road and “watching where they’re going.”
Pedestrian Deaths are Rising
Pedestrian fatalities in the United States are rising. In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians died which accounted for 15% of all traffic-related fatalities in the US. The annual number of fatalities has trended upward since 2006 when 4,795 fatalities were recorded. Corresponding with this trend is the sharp increase in the number of mobile devices in the hands of the general public and in particular, children. Over this period, the number of “pedtextrian” fatalities has risen and law enforcement is agencies across the country are warning parents of the risks their children face.
Parents can help protect their children by teaching them not to use their phone while walking. They should also discourage their child from listening to headphones. Moreover, parents should reinforce the importance of using sidewalks, looking both ways at marked intersections, and wearing easily visible clothing at dawn and dusk. Finally, parents of children who fail to adhere to these safety rules can always take their phones away until they learn how to follow these life-saving lessons every time they head out for a walk.