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The risks of 'distracted walking'

We've all seen the public service announcements and other campaigns warning about the dangers of texting and driving. Of course, here in California, texting while driving is against the law.

However, texting while walking can be every bit as dangerous. Even if you have a green light or a seemingly clear path to cross the street, if you're looking down at your phone, you're not going to see a car that may enter the intersection unexpectedly.

The statistics bear out the warnings about pedestrian texting. Between 2005 and 2010, 1,500 people were taken to emergency rooms with injuries related to distracted walking. Teens, who have never known a world without cell phones, are at particular risk. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, approximately 40 percent of teens have been struck or nearly struck by a vehicle while texting and walking.

Besides taking your attention off of what's happening around you, if you're texting or reading something on your phone, you are more likely to go off course, possibly from a sidewalk onto the street. Distracted walking disrupts your spatial memory and changes your gait.

It may just be a matter of time before texting while walking can get you a citation. Five state legislatures have considered enacting penalties for distracted walking. New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow authorities to fine and potentially even jail texting pedestrians.

While a driver might be criminally culpable for striking a pedestrian, even if that pedestrian isn't watching where he or she is going, the consequences to the pedestrian could be severe and potentially fatal. If you're hit by a vehicle while you're texting, you may have a more difficult time holding that driver civilly liable.

It's best just to not take any chances. If you need to send or read a text or other communication on your phone, "pull over," as it were, to a spot where you're not in the path of any vehicles or other pedestrians.

Source: esurance.com, "4 Reasons to Quit Texting While Walking," Lauren Wilbanks, June 30, 2016

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