If you asked a random sampling of people whether they thought teens or younger children are most at risk for being hit by cars, most would probably say that younger children are more at risk. After all, younger children are less likely to understand pedestrian safety and may be harder to see due to their height. However, it turns out that teens are actually hit by cars at a much higher rate than younger children.
Data analysis from the organization Safe Kids has revealed that in 2013, the pedestrian fatality rate for teens was twice that of the rate for younger children, and that on average, one pedestrian teen is killed or injured by a driver every hour of the day. What’s responsible for this high rate of accidents? Although there are multiple and complex factors at play, researchers found that one of the biggest risk factors for teen pedestrian accidents is distraction caused by mobile devices.
Distracted Walking Is a Major Problem for Teens
To further investigate the high rate of teen pedestrian accidents, Safe Kids recently partnered with FedEx to conduct a survey of 1,000 teens ages 13-18. The data they gathered is based on self-reporting on the part of the teen survey respondents, but it still paints an interesting picture of the pedestrian accident. Safe Kids published their findings in an infographic, which you can view here.
Some of the highlights of the infographic are shown below.
- 40% of respondents said they had been hit or almost hit by a car, motorcycle, or bike while walking.
- The driver was speeding in almost 1 out of 4 of the incidents when a teen was hit or nearly hit. 24% of respondents said that the driver of the vehicle that hit or almost hit them seemed to be driving over the speed limit.
- A significant proportion of respondents who were hit or nearly hit were engaging with technology at the time of the incident. 47% of the teens were listening to music on their phone or another portable music player, 20% were talking on the phone, and 18% were texting.
It appears from the survey results that one of the biggest problems involves teens overestimating their ability to multitask. Most American teenagers have grown up with near-constant access to technology like cell phones and may, as a result, think little of incorporating phone usage into every aspect of their lives, even when they are on-the-go (plenty of adults fall into this mindset as well).
Unfortunately, the human brain is not designed for multi-tasking. As health columnist Dr. Rock Positano explained in an article for The Huffington Post last year, texting and walking at the same time does not give us a split-screen perspective: we can either focus our attention on walking or texting, but not both. Texting while walking causes people to miss environmental signs of a potential risk, such as the sound of a car approaching or the appearance of a car at an intersection.
Other Risk Factors
Not all teen pedestrian accidents can be either fully or partially blamed on distracted walking. Some of the other issues highlighted in the Safe Kids survey include:
Lack of visibility. Half of the teen survey respondents said that they at least occasionally walk in the dark. We also know from pedestrian fatality records that 75% of teen pedestrian accidents occurred between 7 pm and 7 am. This suggests that some teen pedestrian accidents are at least in part a result of a driver failing to see a pedestrian before hitting him or her.
Drunk drivers. The fact that such a large proportion of teen pedestrian accidents occurs between 7 am and 7 pm also suggests that drunk driving is a risk factor. The highest number of drunk drivers are on the road between midnight and 3 am, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Distracted drivers. Of the survey respondents who said they had been hit or almost hit while walking, 10% said that the driver had been distracted at the time of the accident. The majority of states in the US, including Florida, have imposed some kind of ban on texting and driving, but that doesn’t mean all drivers are putting their phones away. There are also plenty of other things that can distract a driver, such as their GPS system, radio, passengers, or even something going on outside of the car.
Drivers disobeying rules of the road. As mentioned previously, 24% of drivers were speeding in the hit or near-hit accidents described by survey respondents. When drivers go faster than is safer in a certain area or disobey other traffic rules, such as fully stopping at a stop sign or yielding when making an unprotected left turn, they are much more likely to cause an accident.
If you or someone you love was injured in a pedestrian accident, talk to a personal injury lawyer to learn what right to reparations you may have. Even if the pedestrian and driver share responsibility for the accident, it may still be able to recover some compensation.
About the Author:
Ben Murphey is a personal injury lawyer and a partner at the firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. Mr. Murphey has 10.0 Superb AVVO rating, was named Top 1% of Car Accident Attorneys by Car Accident Lawyer, and was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers in 2014. Mr. Murphey is based in South Florida but represents people and businesses across the state who have been harmed by the wrongful acts of others.