INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – So-called distracted walking is likely leading to more pedestrian deaths in traffic crashes.
According to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrians account for 15 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States.
In Indiana, the study shows a 6 percent jump in pedestrians hit and killed by cars between January to June 2015 compared to that same time in 2014.
“People are getting so wrapped up in media and their phones that they forget what’s around them and what’s going on,” Megan Cheek said while walking near the IUPUI campus.
The study shows cars are getting safer, so occupants are less likely to die in crashes, but for pedestrians, it also says the smartphone isn’t helping.
“I’m not too surprised, really, honestly,” Jim Rawlinson commented while walking on Monument Circle.
“You just always see people going across the street, not paying attention, on their phone,” Joey Perleberg said while walking from classes.
In the first six months of 2015, Indiana had 50 pedestrian deaths, the 14th highest amount in the country.
“I’d say probably 90 percent of the people that you see walking down the street are either talking on the telephone or swiping on some social media form, or they have both headphones in or are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them,” Cheek said.
But not all was bad in the report. Indiana was credited with conducting walkability assessments. In Marion County that included going to the eight most dangerous locations.
“Everybody has a role in keeping each other and ourselves safe on the streets, whether we’re driving, whether we’re walking, whether we’re riding a bike,” said Kim Irwin, the executive director of Health by Design.
Irwin’s organization is currently drafting a plan to make Indianapolis more walkable. It’s studying driver and pedestrian behavior and looking at where the lack of lighting and sidewalks is a contributing factor.
“[The study is] looking at how to prioritize investments that are made in order to really get the biggest bang for our buck with regard to keeping pedestrians safe and making the community more walkable,” said Irwin.
Distracted walking isn’t just dangerous when walking across the street.
“I did walk into a garbage can once,” said John Nimmer while walking and talking on his phone on Monument Circle. “That’s what happens, so be careful out there.”
Bloomington was also acknowledged in the report for its efforts to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.
The city recently led a campaign to educate bikers and pedestrians about safety on the roads.