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What’s as dangerous as distracted driving? Distracted walking

Published March 22, 2013
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Driving while distracted is inarguably one of the leading causes of vehicular crashes. The studies and the data back that up. Not paying attention to driving means motorists are not processing vital driving information. Missing even small warning signs can lead to disaster.

Just as dangerous as distracted driving, however, is distracted walking. This can have the same fatal results.

Much of this distracted walking comes with the new electronic devices that almost everyone has these days. This technology makes it extremely easy to communicate or get information instantly. It’s unfortunately addicting to many.

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Socializing is tremendously important to teenagers and the new technology keeps them in almost constant contact with their friends and family. It also means they spend a good deal of their time engrossed in this electronic world instead of watching where they are walking.

According to a press release from the Caledon Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), they, along with the help of ROAD WATCH, “have developed a new program aimed at educating students about the dangers of being distracted while walking near traffic.”

The OPP statement goes on to say, “In a recent Ministry of Transportation study, the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report (ORSAR) reported that 4,522 pedestrian injuries occurred. Also, the report indicated that 114 pedestrians were killed in Ontario traffic collisions. Of these numbers, 598 were directly linked to pedestrian distraction.”

Heads Up” is a pedestrian safety awareness program created to promote safety practices with the youth in our community. This program reminds pedestrians that distraction can be fatal.

I have personally experienced a young pedestrian walking directly out in front of my car while they had earphones plugged in and iPod in hand. Luckily I was focused on my driving and noticed the teenager walking toward the curb in what was obviously a distracted manner. They had their head down looking at their device and made no visual check for traffic before stepping off the curb. There was no eye contact with me. Luckily for them and me, I had slowed in anticipation of their mistake.

I have talked to motorists who have said, “Tough for them, they should have been watching.” In other words, the pedestrian will be the big loser in that confrontation.

Definitely the Laws of Physics are on the side of the vehicle. However, there are the emotional scars that always come with tragedy. More often than not, the driver will experience all sorts of emotional trauma symptoms related to striking a child with their vehicle. Insomnia and nightmares of the incident are common after experiencing such a devastating incident. Not to mention the legal aspects of a pedestrian fatality that can make your life a living nightmare.

I know of a gentleman who was involved in a vehicle collision who now suffers terribly from having the unenviable experience of watching another human die as a result of his not-at-fault crash. That night haunts him every day even though he was an innocent unwilling participant.

“It would be devastating to be driving properly and obeying the rules of the road only to have a pedestrian step into the path of your vehicle,” OPP Inspector Rose DiMarco said in the news release. “Along with educating drivers we must share safety tips and report injury trends in relation to distracted pedestrians.”

As motorists and truckers, we all need to focus on our task of driving and that includes watching for those who are not yet mature enough to always be watching for themselves. Teenagers and young ones don’t have that sense of self-preservation yet. They are still developing and need our help.

What can we do to help reduce these traffic tragedies?

Stay focused on our driving and look for the signs of distracted pedestrians. Be prepared for them to step off the sidewalk or stroll unexpectedly into your path. Talk to your own teenagers and young ones and educate them about the dangers of walking while distracted around traffic.

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