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Hang up and walk: Distracted pedestrians are on the rise

While countless campaigns urge distracted motorists to “hang up and drive,” a new poll from Public Employees Mutual Insurance Company (PEMCO) Insurance shows smartphone wielding pedestrians pose an increasing threat on streets and sidewalks, and a majority of Northwest drivers aren’t happy about it.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that half of respondents in Washington and Oregon (53 percent) say they use their phones to talk, text or read while on foot, but only one-third (39 percent) admit to being distracted on sidewalks or in crosswalks at least sometimes while walking.

However, the view from the road is quite different: According to drivers, nine in 10 say they witness distracted walkers not paying attention to their surroundings often or sometimes, and a majority of these drivers (77 percent) are at least a little bothered by it (according to a PEMCO press release.)

“As frustrating as it is to see a pedestrian engrossed in their phone instead of their surroundings, the bigger concern is for the safety of both drivers and pedestrians who are sharing the road. It’s troubling to hear more stories about injuries and accidents among pedestrians who simply aren’t paying attention,” said PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing.

Studies have shown a dramatic increase in pedestrian injuries and deaths in recent years. According to a government report from Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an estimated 5,997 pedestrian fatalities occurred in the United States in 2016, representing an 11 percent increase over 2015 data and 22 percent over 2014.

While the report points to pedestrian’s growing use of smartphone technology as a contributing factor to the spike, it also suggests a better economy and more residents relying on walking as a primary mode of transportation as culprits for more injuries, as well.

According to the PEMCO poll, about half (50 percent) of all respondents say they’re guilty of low-tech distractions like talking to a fellow pedestrian, but across Washington and Oregon, smartphone-related distractions are on the rise — 42 percent admit to talking on the phone, 36 percent say they read and text, and 28 percent listen to music and podcasts while walking.

These are all up from figures reported in 2014, and not surprisingly, people under 55 make up a big part of the boost.

“The bottom line is that we can all be more attentive whether we’re on foot or behind the wheel, not only to keep ourselves and our fellow commuters safe, but also to model the best behavior for younger generations who appear to be the most at risk for the serious consequences of distractions on the road,” Wing said.


For a complete summary of PEMCO’s poll results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where you’ll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2016.

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