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Is Texting While Walking a Serious Safety Threat to Pedestrians?

The past five years have seen a flurry of legislation addressing the hazards of texting while driving. Thirty-four states have banned the practice since Washington state first did so in 2007. But what about texting while walking? Could this be the next frontier of legislation?

According to the most recent data, pedestrian deaths are slightly up nationwide at a time when overall traffic fatalities have dropped significantly. With the huge numbers of people using their mobile phones to send text messages, some have suggested that the blame for the increase in pedestrian deaths rests with our obsession with iPhones, Blackberrys and other mobile digital devices.

But putting the blame on texting may not tell the whole story. In a study conducted at the University of Alabama, college students in a virtual reality environment that simulated a street crossing had the highest risk of being hit (about a 33 percent chance) while listening to music. The risk from texting while walking was lower-about a 25 percent chance.

The study indicates that texting might not be as much of a distraction as many have guessed, and the study’s lead author suggests that the tests show that pedestrians rely on their hearing to gauge when to cross more than previously suspected. An expert on pedestrian injuries for the District of Columbia, quoted in Time magazine, agrees, saying that crash data in the D.C. metro area does not indicate texting while walking is a major source of pedestrian injuries.

Pedestrian deaths are a major concern for large cities, however. In New York City, pedestrian deaths account for nearly a third of all traffic deaths, and New York state ranks fourth-highest among all the states for pedestrian deaths.

There are a great many distractions facing the average New York City pedestrian, so it may not be wise to add texting to the mix. But anyone who has been injured as a pedestrian-even if the injuries are minor-should know that even if they may have been somewhat distracted at the time of the injury, the injury may not be their fault. It’s a good idea to talk with an experienced attorney about the accident, to ensure your legal rights to compensation are protected.