Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
How Does a Teen Cross the Road? While Texting.
One in five teens cross street using digital devices
Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 08:00 AM
High school students can't put their phones down, even when crossing a dangerous street. A new study quantifies just how often kids walk while distracted by technology.
According to the nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide, one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while doing something with a digital device.
Pedestrian injuries among teenagers in particular have been on the rise, increasing 25 percent in the last five years in the 16-19 year-old age group. Crossing streets while staring at a screen is one suggested reason.
Researchers sat at intersections near 68 schools in 17 states and counted 34,000 street crossings by kids and teens, noting who was distracted by a device.
According to the study, listening to music and texting were the top distractions. Thirty-nine percent of the students who were crossing the street while distracted were typing on a cell phone and another 39 percent were listening to headphones. About 20 percent of the distracted walkers were talking on the phone and the rest were using another kind of electronic device, such as a tablet or gaming console.
Girls were a little more likely to distracted walk than boys but only just barely.
Distracted walking (and driving) is particularly dangerous for teens as they are more likely to do it than other age groups, according to this research, and because they are less likely to feel they are at at-risk group when doing so.
A few municipalities have issued laws against distracted walking while crossing a street, like Fort Lee, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, which issues fines up to $85 for the violation. Utah's transit authority has passed a rule that prohibits passengers from using devices while crossing its light rail tracks in Salt Lake City. But generally, there's nothing illegal about tapping away at your phone while crossing a street.
So, for now, advocate like those at Safe Kids Worldwide are trying awareness campaigns, and doing things like asking kids to take a pledge to walk more safely and spread it on Facebook.
See the infographic below for a visual version of the research findings.