Cell Phone Use Tied to Doubling of Pedestrian Injuries

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Source: nytimes.com, Jan. 16, 2010
The number of pedestrians injured while using cell phones has more than doubled since 2004, according to a new peer-reviewed study. Young people were especially at risk, with 16- to 25-year-olds most likely to be injured as “distracted pedestrians.”

More than 1,500 people were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries sustained while walking and talking or texting on cell phones, up from 559 in 2004, the first year covered by the study. The injuries were more common among men and people under the age of 31.

The study, published in the Aug. 2013 edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that while the total number of pedestrian injuries fell between 2004 and 2010, the number of injuries involving cell phones rose. The authors noted that the number of cell phone subscriptions has risen by 20 million per year since 2000.

Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and Professor of City and Regional Planning at Ohio State University, warned that the situation is likely to get worse: “If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015.” Nasar also believes the figures cited in his study underestimate the actual problem, because not all injured people go to emergency rooms, and some people may not report their cell phone use.

The authors found a variety of reported injuries, including a 14-year-old boy who fell off a bridge while talking on a cell phone, and a 23-year-old man hit by a car while walking down the middle of a road and talking on the phone. The media frequently report on such injuries, including the Sep. 2012 incident involving Maria Pestrikoff, who walked off a 60-foot cliff in Kodiak, Alaska while texting and had to be rescued by firefighters.

The debate over whether or not the distraction of using cell phones poses significant dangers has generally centered around the use of phones while driving. University of Utah researchers have claimed that drivers talking on cell phones are as impaired as drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%.

Others argue that driving while using cell phones is not particularly dangerous. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center found that other distractions, such as events taking place outside the car, adjusting the CD player, and other people in the vehicle were all more likely to cause accidents than using a cell phone.

Sources:

Syma Chowdhry, “Cell Phone Related Injuries on the Rise,” philadelphia.cbslocal.com, Sep. 17, 2013

“Distracted Walking: Injuries Soar for Pedestrians on Phones,” Ohio State University website, June 19, 2013

Jennifer Smola, “Study: Cell Phone-Related Injuries Soar,” usatoday.com, Sep. 17, 2013

David L. Strayer et al., “A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver,” Human Factors, Summer 2006

Victoria Taylor, “Cell Phone-Related Pedestrian Injuries on the Rise: Study,” nydailynews.com, Sep. 18, 2013
    
Adam D. Thierer, “Here Come the Federal Cell Phone Cops,” CATO Institute website, June 25, 2001