Many Valley Center residents have heard about the risks of distracted driving. Indeed, as a report from ABC News 10 discusses, on January 1, 2017 additional cell phone laws took effect that prevent California drivers from holding a phone or doing anything more than making a single tap or a single swipe. While drivers are still permitted to use cell phones as GPS devices, provided that they are mounted somewhere in the vehicle, the change to the law aims to prevent distracted driving accidents. What about distracted walking? While the term might sound like an odd one, it is becoming a relatively serious problem in California and throughout major urban areas in the country.
According to a recent report from KEYT News 3, a local official is proposing a change to the law. In short, in order to improve public safety, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa is hoping to institute a distracted walking law that “would make it illegal to use the crosswalk while using your cell phone.” Is such a law likely to pass? Is it necessary to prevent pedestrian accidents?
Pedestrian Accidents on the Rise Due to Smartphone Use
According to the report, Canepa argues that the rising rates of distracted walking require a law to prohibit this behavior in certain places. Namely, looking at a smartphone to send a text or to surf the internet while crossing the street in a crosswalk can lead to a deadly collision. While automobiles are supposed to stop for anyone on foot who is crossing the street, this does not always happen. To be clear, although the automobile driver may be at fault for failing to come to a stop at a crosswalk, pedestrians should also think about their own safety and to put down the phone while crossing from one side of the street to another.
Canepa indicates that about 25% of car collisions in California right now involve pedestrians, and this number is on the rise. A likely explanation for this rise in this rate of distracted walking accidents is smartphones. More people are paying attention to the screens instead of to their surroundings. Canepa’s proposed law would allow police officers to cite any pedestrians who are looking down at smartphones while they are within a crosswalk. The idea is that the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities would decline.
What Can You do to Prevent These Accidents?
Just how big of a problem is distracted walking? An article in Safety.com notes that about 5,000 pedestrians sustain fatal injuries each year, while 76,000 more suffer from serious nonfatal injuries. Experts are quite certain that distracted walking is at least part of the problem, and California would not be the first state to ban distracted walking in some capacity. New Jersey has already instituted a ban on texting while walking.
The article discusses a 2012 study conducted by researchers at SUNY-Stony Brook, which “found that those who texted while walking were 60 percent more likely to veer off line than non-texters.” The researchers behind the study as well as other in the film describe this as “inattentive blindness.” While use of the term “blindness” might seem like an exaggeration, the Stony Brook researchers highlighted how surprised they were to “find that talking and texting on a cell phone [was] so disruptive to one’s gait and memory recall of [a] target location.”
To prevent these accidents, it is important to pay attention while walking and especially while in a crosswalk. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted walker, you should speak with a Valley Center accident lawyer as soon as you can. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more information.
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(image courtesy of Bethany Legg)