Turning the Volume Down on Distracted Walking

I always enjoyed a good walk. As a kid, my mom, my brother and I loved taking walks together. It didn’t matter where we would go because it was our time to bond and catch up. It was also a time to learn pedestrian etiquette. Rules, such as paying attention to my surroundings while crossing the street, were ingrained in me. I had been doing this for so long that I had become a pro, or so I thought.

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.

I was 16 at the time, and although many of my friends were practicing driving, I couldn’t be bothered with it; I preferred walking. I would walk to my friends’ houses, to work or to the grocery store. One Saturday, I volunteered to run errands for my mom, who was too tired from working all week. I got ready and made sure that I had the necessary amount of cash, my grocery list and some comfortable shoes. Before leaving, I made sure to bring my music and headphones along with me. The grocery store was a 30-minute walk from my house, but it was a gorgeous day and I had music for entertainment. I turned the music up, as loud as my ears could take it, and in no time I arrived at the grocery store. My grocery list only included four items and in no more than 10 minutes I was on my way back home.

I had my grocery bag in my hand and my headphones tightly secured inside my ears. I felt happy and carefree. Before crossing the street, I stopped and quickly glanced to my left and my right.

“Coast is clear,” I thought.

As I made it half way into the crosswalk I realized, too late, that a car had failed to notice me. It took less than a second. I remember the car hitting me, I remember rolling onto the windshield and then falling on the ground. I remember feeling shocked, but aware of what had happened. Almost immediately the driver got out of the car and ran towards me, asking if I was okay. She wanted to take me to the hospital but I assured her that I felt fine. She offered to drive me home and I convinced her otherwise.  The accident left only a tiny scar on my left foot, which disappeared after three weeks, but it left me with a permanent feeling of unease when crossing the street. 

My experience taught me a few things about how to be safe while walking. I realized that the driver was not the only one to blame. I was distracted by my music, just like most teens. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but being able to hear a car is just as important as being able to see a car. Looking back, here are some tips that could have prevented the incident altogether.   

Quick Tips

  • Cross at traffic signals or crosswalks, when possible
  • Look left, right and left again when crossing
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing

And for me, the best tip that I can give you would be to take off your headphones and take a moment of silence while crossing the street.

More Safety Tips

For more tips on safe walking, check out our tips page.