Panter’s Pointers: Injuries on the rise for distracted pedestrians

In this edition of Panter’s Pointers, we look at the growing personal injury issue of distracted pedestrians. One of society’s current hot button topics is the danger of distracted driving, but perhaps equally as troublesome is the growth of injuries to distracted pedestrians. Many blame the increased use of mobile technology as the culprit. Similar to using handheld devices while driving, pedestrians can be fatally injured when they are distracted from their surroundings.

A recent study by Dr. Richard Lichtenstein, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore found that deaths are on the rise for pedestrians using headphones. Whether it’s a story of a pedestrian walking into oncoming traffic or not hearing horns from vehicles or even trains, the results for distracted pedestrians can be tragic. Among the results, Dr. Lichtenstein’s study found that “the number of deaths of people wearing headphones increased from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011.” Perhaps most surprisingly is that the majority of vehicles involved were trains.

The key to this alarming new trend is that it affects all populations. While the majority of cases studied involved people under the age of 30 in urban counties across the United States, this is an issue that everyone on the road needs to be aware of.  In South Florida we are graced with beautiful outdoor weather throughout the year and so we are a city of runners, bike riders, walkers, etc. Whether cell phones or music devices such as iPods, it is commonplace to see pedestrians wearing headphones.

What can we do to limit injuries to distracted pedestrians? First and foremost pedestrians should keep the volume low enough that they can hear what is going on in their surroundings. If you can’t hear someone talking to you, your volume is too loud.  Secondly, pedestrians should be looking up at all times while in motion. If you look down to change a song or to use that fun new app, be sure that you are standing still in a safe spot out of traffic’s way. Last but not least, both pedestrians and motorists need to slow down and be aware of their surroundings before entering an intersection or crossing a crosswalk.  Never assume the pedestrian will stop for you just like pedestrians shouldn’t assume that vehicles will stop for them.


U.S. News on, “Fatal distraction: Deaths of headphone-wearing pedestrians on the rise,” by Sevil Omer, 17 January 2012

CBS News, “Deaths on the Rise for Distracted Pedestrians,” by Jim Axelrod, 27 January 2011