Tech-distracted teens twice as likely to get hit

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 4th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Here’s one more reason to put the phone away — and look twice before you cross the street, no matter how old you are. New research shows that teens are twice as likely as adults to get hit by a car because they were distracted by a phone or iPod. Eighteen percent of teen pedestrians hit by cars had been using a device versus nine percent of adults, in fact.

The study, presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference, looked at the causes of pedestrian car accidents. Researchers studied 1,000 accidents finding that 13 percent of injured pedestrians were children. They found that 80 percent of teenagers had been unsupervised, and that jaywalking, darting into the street and using an electronic device were the most common culprits of accidents involving kids. Researchers call this type of distraction “inattentional blindness.”

A past study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones resulted in fatalities nearly three-quarters of the time. And then there’s the hazard of driving while talking — or worse, texting.

Another study found that drivers on cell phones clog traffic and drive slower. And don’t think hands-free devices are the answer — the conversation itself is the culprit. Reaction times for young adults become as slow as those of senior citizens, and drivers talking on cell phones are four times more likely to be in an accident.

The solution for safer cell phone use as a pedestrian is to simply wait until you are stationary. Keep your head up and eyes ahead — and keep headphones out of your ears. While driving, don’t eat and avoid fiddling with the radio. Remember that you’re operating a several-ton piece of metal with very precious cargo inside. And most importantly, definitely don’t use your cell phone.