Other Voices

Let’s stop distracted walking – a habit that could be fatal

Remember that what’s in front of you might be more important to your life than what’s on your cellphone.
Remember that what’s in front of you might be more important to your life than what’s on your cellphone. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although it’s been some time, I still remember watching my children take their first steps. I remember worrying that they might fall and hurt themselves, and that I would spend the evening in the ER.

Eventually, they were on the move. From those first unsure steps to running across the yard at a full sprint, they were unstoppable moving machines.

From an early age, one of the life lessons we as parents teach our children is to look both ways before crossing the street. Over and over again, we remind our children to constantly scan the road for danger.

Because of the ubiquitous use of smartphones today, the simple act of crossing the street has greater life-threatening potential for children, teenagers and adults.

And it’s not just the driver who is distracted. Distracted walking is becoming its own epidemic.

The National Safety Council reported that 38,000 people died on the roads in 2015 — the largest increase in the last 50 years.

Geoffrey Fowler of The Wall Street Journal points out that emergency room visits by distracted pedestrians rose 124 percent from 2010 to 2014.

The University of Buffalo says distracted walking may result in more accidents per mile than distracted driving.

That assertion is astonishing, considering one in four car crashes involves a phone, and, in 2014, more than 10 percent of all fatal car crashes was the result of cellphone use.

Furthermore, teenagers account for more than half of all pedestrian deaths, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

These stats almost seem nonsensical.

Today, we have automobiles that are dramatically safer, with state-of-the-art passenger safety features and sophisticated crash-avoidance technology.

Yet, hand-held distractions could be starting to offset some of our nation’s greatest auto safety advancements.

There are a number of steps we can take to make our roads safer.

We can support the implementation and enforcement of laws on distracted driving and aggressive driving across the country.

Right now, there is no statewide ban in Texas on hand-held cell phones and texting, except in school zones.

As parents, we also need to keep reminding our children to put the phone down both in the car and on the sidewalk

Automobile safety technology is saving lives. Let’s not let hand-held technology put us in more danger.

David A. Sampson, former president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, is the president and CEO of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.