If you have ever lived in or experienced city life, you know that there are other alternatives to owning a car. When I was younger, between the ages of 6 and 14, I was lucky enough to live in Paris, France. Needless to say, Paris is a busy city and many people walk to get where they are going.
One of the most interesting aspects of working at Safe Kids is that we get to play "detective.” If we see a statistic we find alarming, like that every hour of every day a teen is hit by a car and killed or injured in the U.S., we get to try to figure out the five W’s, who, what, where, when and why. Last year, we discovered that the pedestrian death rate for teens is twice that of younger children. This year, we took our detective role one step further. We surveyed 1000 teens ages 13-18 to understand more about their walking habits: what they’re doing, and why.
My favorite thing to do while walking by myself was listening to music. I love music. As a child, I was always singing and being scolded by my Aunt Joyce for humming at inappropriate times. But music is soothing to me; it makes me feel happy, playful and, at times, sad. Listening to music and walking seemed, to me, a harmless combination. Needless to say, I soon found out the danger of it.
It seems that teens are texting or tapping on their phones no matter where they are. I know. I am the parent of a high school senior. Unfortunately, cell phonesand other handheld gadgets are causing teens to be more easily distracted, and that is leading to greater risk on the roads. There is a lot of attention on distracted driving, but what about kids who are walkers? While it might seem that as kids get older they’ll become safer while walking, teenagers are now the most at-risk pedestrians of children 19 and under. In fact, every hour of every day, a teen pedestrian is killed or injured in the U.S. after being hit by a car, bike or motorcycle.
Have you ever texted a friend while walking down a sidewalk and thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ For this unsuspecting guy, it was almost running into a hungry-looking brown bear. Luckily, everyone turned out okay. But what if that bear had been a car going 30 miles per hour?
Our research report, “Teens and Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” is an observational study that tracked a remarkable 34,000 middle- and high-school students crossing the street in a school zone. A shocking 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 8 middle school students were observed crossing the street while distracted by technology.