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.
If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I am not the most coordinated person. I know this because I ran cross-country in high school, and I still have the scars to prove it. Even the smallest branch or bump in the road used to be enough to bring me tumbling to the ground in spectacular fashion.
This tradition of tumbling continued when I left for college and became a tour guide. If you have ever been on a tour of a college campus, you can imagine that it is not the best job for the uncoordinated. Leading the tours required me to walk backwards in front of large groups of people. On my very first tour as a freshly-minted guide, I ran into no less than five tree branches and several innocent bystanders, not to mention nearly being struck by a passing car.