Pedestrian safety could become an issue for municipalities as distraction becomes a growing concern. As anyone who watches pedestrians walking knows, our use of mobile phones can be dangerous. As users look down to view their phone they may fail to notice they are approaching a street or walking into oncoming traffic. While much has been made of distracted driving and efforts to ticket distracted drivers have increased, not much attention has been given to those pedestrians who are injured, or cause accidents, due to distracted walking.
The number of incidents involving distracted pedestrians has increased over the past 10 years. A study by The Ohio State University estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to cell phone usage while walking. This is a reported 100% increase in such injuries from 5 years earlier. Meanwhile, a study by Stony Brook University found that people using their cell phones are 61% more likely to stray off course and 13% more likely to pass their destination than those who are not distracted.
The National Safety Council found that distracted walking incidents between 2000 and 2011 accounted for 11,100 injuries of which nearly 80% involved a fall of some kind. The study found that “for pedestrians, this distraction can cause them to trip, cross roads unsafely or walk into motionless objects such as street signs, doors or walls.”
In an effort to prevent pedestrians wandering into the crosswalk, the Dutch town of Bodegraven installed red and green LED light strips on the sidewalk that synchronize with traffic signals. These lights are currently only located at one intersection but if successful may be installed in other locations.
The German town of Augsburg has installed similar lights at two tram stops which flash when a tram is approaching and when the traffic light is red.
Will New York cities, towns, and villages also be addressing these concerns for pedestrian safety and develop similar strategies on the use of mobile phones on public streets?