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Distracted Walking – Heads Up Students!

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By Samuetta Drew

Summer for Alabama students is quickly coming to a screeching halt. Statewide, students are preparing to return back to school. This means busier traffic during “peak drive time” periods because of the additional carpools, teen drivers and buses on the road. This also means many students of all ages (5-19) will be walking to and from school during these peak periods, as well. A pedestrian walking in all types of traffic has become an even greater national safety concern due to a new national phenomenon – Distracted Walking. SafeKids reports that pedestrian-vehicle injuries are the 5th leading cause of death for children ages 5-19, but no age group is immune. The numbers peak during the months schools reopen.

Distracted walking in 1995 placed children ages 5 to 9 at a much higher risk to be struck by a vehicle resulting in serious injuries or death, but the numbers in this age category has drastically declined by 50 percent. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by students ages 15 to 19. The new spiking increase is primarily due to students walking while texting or talking on their cell phones. Injury Facts 2015 reports that 16,000 students 19 and younger were injured in 2013. That equates to 44 youth per day! With additional apps/functions becoming increasingly available on their cell phones, the potential danger of distracted walking continues to increase. According to the Nielsen Company students ages 13 to 17 send more than 3,400 texts a month. That’s seven messages every hour they are awake.

It is essential for you to review some safety measures with your child(ren) especially prior to the opening of school, as well as throughout the year. Here are some safety measures you should highlight:

  • Never walk while texting or talking on the cell phone
  • Never cross the street while using your cell phone or any other type of electronic device
  • Do not walk with headphones
  • If texting, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Cross only at crosswalks
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult

Pedestrians should also be aware of “distracted drivers” and follow particular safety measures while walking such as:

  • Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
  • Never rely on the car to stop
  • Beware of drivers even crossing at the crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots

At the end of the day, the main priority for children walking to and from school is to make it back home safely each day. One way to help accomplish this goal is Keeping an Eye on Safety.