Florida certainly does have a serious problem when it comes to texting while driving and other distracted driving practices, but experts are increasingly concerned about a lesser known trend in our state—distracted walking.
Using data collected from emergency rooms across the nation, researchers found that the number of cases of serious distracted walking injuries rose 35 percent from 2010 to 2014. The federal Fatality Analysis Reporting system estimates that half a dozen pedestrian deaths a year are caused by portable electronic devices, such as phones, iPods, and other music players.
In an attempt to minimize the number of injuries and fatalities caused by distracted walking, lawmakers in some states—including Utah and New Jersey— have begun to introduce fines and other measures to discourage texting and walking. In New York City, speed limits have been lowered to make streets safer for distracted walkers.
As a pedestrian, you can make yourself vulnerable to traffic around you when you engage in distracting activities, such as texting, talking on your phone, or listing to music. You can do your part to minimize distracted walking accidents by following these tips:
Never text and walk. Experts agree that the increasing popularity of smartphones is largely behind the recent surge in distracted walking accidents. When your eyes are on your cell phone and not on the sidewalk or road around you, it increases your risk of tripping and falling into dangerous areas. When both your eyes and mind are directed at your phone, you are more likely to wander off a sidewalk or crosswalk or neglect to spot vehicles as they approach you.
Take off the headphones. Your ears tell you a great deal about the world around you, and may be the first things that alert you to oncoming dangers. Using headphones can distract you from the task of walking and keeping an “ear” out for hazards like oncoming vehicles and trains, researchers say. In fact, many safety experts maintain that auditory cues can often be more important that visual ones when it comes to pedestrian accidents. Over recent years, the increase in the use of headphones while walking has led to a substantial increase in pedestrian injures.
Stay focused. Many experts believe that daydreaming while driving is even more dangerous than texting while driving. Just as daydreaming while driving can be deadly, so can daydreaming while walking. When you daydream and walk at the same time, you may feel completely aware of your environment while being out of conscious contact with it. Your subconscious takes over, and your reaction time and sense of perception may suffer. While it’s difficult to stop your mind from daydreaming entirely, you can improve your focus by keeping your eyes moving, taking new routes—even chewing something, such as gum or a crunchy snack.
Stay sober. Just as drinking and taking drugs can impair your ability to drive, they can impair your ability to walk safely. Alcohol and drugs can hinder your decision-making abilities, reflexes, and other functions just as much on your feet as they do when you are operating a motor vehicle. You can have a safer, more enjoyable walking experience if you keep your mind sober and alert.
Be visible. You can make it easier for drivers to see you by dressing in bright colors and retro-reflective materials. When walking at night, always carry a flashlight.
Do your part as a driver. You can do your part as a driver to reduce pedestrian accidents by remaining alert and keeping an eye out for pedestrians at all time. Be sure to abide by posted speed limits, and be wary of pedestrians while backing up from parking lots, driveways, and the like. As you approach a crosswalk, be prepared to yield to pedestrians and allow enough space between your car and the crosswalk to let other drivers to see the pedestrians who are crossing.
In order to file a pedestrian injury claim in Florida, you will have to demonstrate that the driver who injured you directly contributed to the accident. If you were found to be texting, listening to music, or daydreaming, you may have difficulty recovering compensation. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced Florida pedestrian accident attorney. Even if you had been engaged in distracted walking practices, a negligent driver still should be held accountable for her or her role in the accident. A skilled lawyer may be able to help you build a powerful injury claim and obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other costs related to recovery.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.