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Study Cites “Myth” of Walker Distraction in Pedestrian Accidents

September 18, 2018

Pedestrian accidents in Chicago and nationally have hit an all-time high. Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported 46 pedestrians were killed in collisions with motor vehicles last year, compared with 27 in 2013, with the majority occurring in Chicago’s South and West side neighborhoods.

One of the reasons often cited for this uptick is electronic distractions – both of drivers and those on foot. But how much of a role does pedestrian distraction really play?

A recent study published by engineering professors at Northern Arizona University analyzed how pedestrians used crosswalks in two bustling urban areas: New York, NY and Flagstaff, AZ. What they discovered was the vast majority of pedestrians didn’t commit traffic safety violations that increased the likelihood of a pedestrian accident. More than 86 percent didn’t exhibit any indication they were even distracted. Of the more than 3,000 pedestrians observed, only 16 percent crossed outside of the crosswalk and only about a quarter crossed when there was a “Don’t Walk” signal.

The analysis didn’t study driver distraction at those same locations, but analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed 1 in 3 drivers admitted to operating a vehicle while distracted at some point in the previous 30 days.

The Takeaway on Pedestrian Distraction

Much has been made in recent years of the need to educate the public on the dangers of distracted walking. Public awareness campaigns have been proposed and some officials have proposed allocation of taxpayer dollars to install more flashing lights or additional signage at crosswalks and other pedestrian areas. This study suggests it’s not the problem it’s been made out to be, and perhaps our money is better spent elsewhere.

Study authors noted that for intersections that have a high volume of vehicle and foot traffic, officials might consider a so-called “scramble crosswalk,” wherein all vehicles stop simultaneously to allow pedestrians the opportunity to cross in any direction.

In the event that you or a loved one is injured in a pedestrian accident, the attorneys at Coplan + Crane are here to help. We have seen the devastation negligent drivers cause to pedestrians and their families. Contact us today. We’re ready to fight for you.