Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
Researchers at Ohio State University have scrupulously documented the dangers distracted walking and determined they are many. More than 1,500 people were treated in emergency rooms nationwide in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking, according to estimates from the study. The number of injuries per year from distracted walking have doubled since 2005.
A 14-year-old boy fell off a bridge into a rock-strewn ditch was injured in the chest and shoulder, a 23-year-old was struck by a car while ambling oblivious to traffic in the middle of a road. Thousands of people a year are injured because it is, in truth, hard to walk and talk at the same time, the researchers conclude.
"If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015," said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University.
It's no shocker to learn that young people are the most likely to be injured with cell phone in hand. Texting on the move accounted for far fewer injuries than talking on the phone according to this study, but the authors caution, that's not because texting while walking is less dangerous, just that fewer people actually walk while texting than while having a phone conversation.
The methodology of the study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention was admirably thorough. The researchers examined seven years of data from a database that samples injury reports from 100 hospitals across the country These reports are used to estimate total injury rates at emergency rooms nationwide.
By contrast, distracted driving was associated with 3,331 deaths in 2011, and an additional 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the U.S. DOT.