Are Cell Phones and Ipods Perils for Pedestrians?

By: Valerie Nay

You see it everywhere and many of us do it ourselves. Whether trying to squeeze the most out of our busy day or out of simple boredom, we talk on the phone or listen to music, news or audio books while we're walking. The business person trying to get a little work in while going to pick up lunch, the mom or dad having a tense conversation with one of the kids or the teenager listening to her iPod on her way home from school - it's a normal part of everyday life now.

Most of the controversy around cell phones has been related to driving a car while talking or dialing but they pose a risk to pedestrians, too. Just the other day, I saw a pedestrian almost get hit by a car while walking through the parking lot of the local supermarket - not once, but twice! The first driver saw her at the last minute and thanks to another driver who honked his horn, the driver of the second car stopped moving, too. If you can't already guess, she was talking on her cell phone and was engrossed in her conversation. She kept right on talking - still oblivious, as she walked into the market.

All handheld devices -- cell phones, iPods, Walkmans, and portable CD players -- can pose a safety risk to pedestrians. One of the biggest risks they present is the fact that they are huge distractions for the pedestrian. Often the pedestrian is so engaged in his or her phone conversation, text message or their music that they fail to see what is going on around them. The pedestrian is often focused on other things besides the street or the parking lot.

Another key factor is that cell phones and music players can block the user's hearing so the listener can't hear what's going on around them. A critical safety sense is stripped away and it could easily cost someone their life.

Here are some quick reminders to make your walking trips a bit safer.

* Pay attention to what is going on around you! Minimize or remove all distractions that prevent you from staying alert and aware.
* Make yourself as visible as possible and never enter traffic from between parked cars.
* Turn down the volume on your phone, iPod, or other device so you can also hear what's going on around you.
* Be especially careful in parking lots. Look for back up lights and engine noise to alert you to moving cars.
* Be aware of drivers who may not be paying attention themselves.
* Always be extra cautious at night.

And of course, the gold standards:

* Cross the street in crosswalks only!
* Cross at a corner if there is no crosswalk.
* Look both ways before crossing the street.
* Make sure you are carrying up-to-date emergency contact information as well as identification whenever you leave the house.

Over 5,900 people get killed by cars each year. Thousands more get seriously injured. A little more attention on your part could make a critical difference, so make sure you stay alert to the dangers around you by limiting distractions as much as possible and following the simple safety rules outlined above.

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