Does government need to save distracted walkers from themselves?

Distracted driving or texting while driving. We have all heard about the dangers of these behaviors. In most states, texting behind the wheel is an official traffic violation. The mental and physical distraction of typing and reading while driving is proven to significantly increase the likelihood of a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident.

But now news reports are taking the safety matter of cell phone distraction even further. Is distracted walking a legitimate safety concern for safety officials and the law to worry about? There have been cases of distracted walking accidents in Philadelphia and, therefore, efforts to address the supposed serious safety issue.

The Associated Press reports that a man walked and fell onto Philadelphia train tracks when he was too distracted while looking at his phone. Fortunately, no train came after the fall and the man got to safety, but this is an example that safety advocates point to as a warning to communities of the dangers of walking while distracted.

Hospital reports indicate that there has been a significant increase in the number of people making emergency room visits due to distracted walking. With the rise in popularity of cell phones and other technological devices, it might come as no surprise that the rate of distracted walking injuries has gone up by at least four times in the past several years.

Currently, there are no legislative proposals in the works that seek to curb distracted walking. Is law enforcement supposed to ticket a person who they see walking while reading an email? Most communities are not at that point — yet. But it is true that pedestrians put themselves in danger by not looking where they are going, especially when walking around traffic. Therefore, Philadelphia has come up with a safety campaign to educate pedestrians of the dangers and try to curb distracted walking.

Let’s just hope that pedestrians can put their phones down long enough to see the message.

Source: The Associated Press, “Distracted walkers stumble into danger,” Joan Lowy, July 31, 2012

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