USA Today reports that government officials and safety experts are taking action against the growing problem of distracted walking. Typically, the walker is talking on a phone, texting with his head down, listening to music, or playing a video game. The problem isn’t as widely discussed as distracted driving, but the danger is real. Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years and are almost certainly underreported.
There has been a spike in pedestrians killed and injured in traffic accidents, but there is no reliable data on how many were distracted by electronics. State and local officials are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves. In Delaware, highway safety officials opted for a public education campaign, placing decals on crosswalks and sidewalks at busy intersections urging pedestrians to “Look up. Drivers aren’t always looking out for you.” The Utah Transit Authority adopted an ordinance barring pedestrians from using cellphones, headphones or other distracting electronic devices while crossing the tracks of its light rail system in Salt Lake City. Distracted walking bills in the Arkansas, Illinois and New York legislatures went nowhere.