A YouTube search for distracted walking produces numerous videos (like this) of people walking into other people, falling down stairs, running into cars, walking into posts and more. Most are meant to be humorous, but many incidents are tragic rather than funny.
A serious problem
Distracted walking reached epidemic levels as society became addicted to smartphones. Talking on the phone or texting while walking is undoubtedly the most common form of distracted walking. While it might not be as dangerous as texting while driving, it still can result in serious injuries or even death.
“Walking the streets texting isn’t much safer than walking them with a blindfold on,” explains Casey Neistat in an op-ed video for The New York Times. Neistat says the proper technique for texting is to pause and put your back against a wall while you text so you don’t become an obstacle for others.
Based on 2014 published data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 261,930 workers missed one or more days of work because of falls and 798 workers died from such falls. Falls are more likely to occur when workers are distracted.
Those falls are also costly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents are estimated at $70 billion annually in the United States.
Pedestrian deaths spike
In 2015, the Governors Highway Safety Association noted a troubling 28 percent spike in deaths involving pedestrians ages 20 to 69 the prior year. The report noted that while alcohol played a role in about one-third of the fatalities, data also showed both distracted driving and distracted walking increasingly contribute to pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
“Distracted walkers take longer to cross the street and are more likely to ignore traffic lights or neglect to look both ways,” according to an Ohio State University study. “Interestingly, distracted walkers are more likely to use crosswalks — perhaps trying to offset their risky behavior. ”
The report explained distracted walking is most prevalent among the 21- to 25-year-old age group, followed closely by teens. The study found nearly 40 percent of U.S. teens were hit or nearly hit by a passing car, motorcycle or bike while using their phones while walking.
Doctors take notice
The distracted-walking problem has become serious enough that the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons commissioned a 2015 study to collect more data.
The research showed millennials aged 18 to 34 were most likely to be injured in distracted walking incidents, while women over the age of 55 were most likely to suffer serious injuries.
The study found “many Americans are overly confident in their ability to multitask.” When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents say “they just don’t think about it,” 28 percent believe “they can walk and do other things,” and 22 percent “are busy and want to use their time productively.”
The National Safety Council notes that while walking is generally considered a healthy activity, that might not be true for someone who is using an electronic device while walking. The council advises against using cell phones or wearing headphones while walking. Heeding that advice might keep you from seeing yourself in an embarrassing viral video or it might even save you from serious injury or death.
About CopperPoint: Founded in 1925, CopperPoint Insurance Companies is Arizona’s premier provider of workers compensation insurance. For over 90 years, CopperPoint has been a trusted partner for Arizona companies to protect what matters most: their businesses and employees. As a leading advocate of workplace safety, CopperPoint is proactive in building a culture of safety throughout Arizona and in keeping the state’s workers compensation insurance rates affordable. In doing so, CopperPoint delivers peace of mind to more than 12,000 businesses and their employees.