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“Distracted walking” becoming a phenomenon across the country

For better or for worse, the electronic age - text messaging in particular - has revolutionized the way people communicate. Abbreviations like "C U L8R, "OMG" and "LOL" are now commonplace in our lexicon. People use smart phones for everything from texting to tweeting, and from shopping to surfing the web, all of which is amazing and incredibly convenient. It can also be dangerous if done in the wrong place - like alongside a busy street.

Think about your body's movements when you are texting. Are you hunched over? Is your focus drawn to your fingers and the tiny screen in front of you? Do you "zone out," ignoring conversations and situations around you? If you do, you are not alone.

Unfortunately, countless people who have that same tunnel-vision when texting are doing it while walking, something that can lead to accidents and injuries. News stories from around the country have shown people walking into busy streets, tripping off sidewalk curbs into traffic and even walking into light poles or trees, all while texting. There was even a story out of California in late 2012 about a man who literally walked in to a bear - yes, a real, live bear - while texting.

Increasing numbers of pedestrians are forgetting their basic safety tips like looking both ways before crossing the street, paying attention to traffic control devices like signals and pedestrian crossing signs and not using crosswalks, all because they are engrossed in whatever electronic device is handy. This can lead to an increase in pedestrian accidents.

Gathering proof

A recent study performed by researchers at the University of Washington helps illustrate the reasons why distracted walking is so dangerous. Researchers watched 1,000 random people crossing the street, noting their behaviors while crossing. They found that people who were using any sort of electronic device - mp3 players, cell phones, personal planners, tablets or e-readers - were more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors like not staying in cross walks and not looking both ways before crossing. Those same people also typically took longer to cross the street than those who were fully focused on their surroundings.

People who were texting were the worst, though. They were essentially oblivious, taking seconds longer to cross, leaving crosswalks and largely failing to observe any safety precautions.

The dangers

Obviously, a big danger to people walking and texting is that they will walk out into traffic unaware and get struck by a car. That isn't the only hazard, though. They can also step into potholes, trip on debris or fall after striking the curb, suffering broken bones, scrapes, bruising and more. Furthermore, they endanger drivers (who must take evasive action in an attempt to avoid striking them, leading to collisions with other vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, buildings and stationary objects like light poles) and everyone else sharing the road and sidewalk with them.

You can lessen the chances of being involved in a pedestrian-versus-car accident by taking proper safety precautions and not splitting your attention between the road and a gadget. If you are unlucky enough to be injured in a pedestrian accident that is not your fault, consider speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options you may have to hold the responsible parties accountable.

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