Teenagers at Greatest Risk for Pedestrian Injuries – Distracted Walking to Blame

Sep 3, 2012

Every day some 61 kids in the U.S. are struck by cars. The rates of child pedestrian injuries have been on the decline for years, but according to a new study, the rate of strikes is going up for one group.

“Kids who are between the ages of 14 and 19 account for 50% of all pedestrian injuries,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization focusing on accidental injury prevention.

The study, by Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx, finds a 25% increase over the last five years in the number of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 who are hit by cars. The most at-risk age group has shifted over the years. In 1995, five to nine-year-olds sustained the most injuries. The death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger children.

“We think that this is directly correlated to the increase in cell phone use or mobile devices. So kids who have ear phones on or who are texting while they’re walking, or chatting on the phone – their connectivity, while a great thing, is putting them at risk while crossing the street,” said Carr.

The study finds teens are most often struck in mid-block, not at intersections, so Carr advises drivers to be aware of kids who may dart out into traffic. Drivers are also advised to limit cell phone use behind the wheel, give pedestrians the right of way at crosswalks, and to slow down in residential areas and school zones. But, walkers also need to be part of the solution.

“We begin by teaching our kids some of the basics, look left-right-left; walk, don’t run across the street, make sure you cross at an intersection or crosswalk, pay attention to the traffic signals that are around,” said Carr, “but now we want to add to that – remove your headphones while you’re crossing the street and if you need to use your phone to text, please stop walking.”