The report, “Teens and Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” made possible with support from FedEx®, presents an observational study that recorded more than 34,000 middle and high school students crossing the street in a school zone. Conducted in 17 states and 68 schools, the study looked at whether teens are crossing the street while distracted, and if so, what devices they are using.
According to the research, 39 percent of the students who are crossing the street while distracted are typing on a cell phone and 39 percent are listening to headphones. The remaining students are talking on the phone (20 percent) or using another electronic device, such as a tablet or game (2 percent).
The study was developed to explore findings from a 2012 Safe Kids report that found pedestrian injuries among 16-19 year olds increased 25 percent over the previous five years. Teens now account for half of all pedestrian deaths among children 19 and under.
“We suspected that the increase was due to distraction by mobile devices, but there was not much data to support that conclusion,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “To understand the scope of the problem, we activated our network to observe 34,000 students crossing in school zones. The findings were alarming.”
In addition to the observational survey, the study also describes findings from discussions with more than 2,400 students. Almost half of the students (49 percent) say they use a cell phone while walking to school. Four out of 10 say they listen to music while walking. Interestingly, while teens are at the greatest risk for pedestrian crashes, only 22 percent of students say it is kids their own age who are most likely to be hit by a car while walking.
The report includes public policy measures that would protect walkers, like investments by government in making roads around schools safer.
“Distraction is a big problem, both while driving and walking,” said Carr. “Parents, talk to your kids to make sure they are paying full attention when crossing the street. And we adults need to follow our own advice. If we put our devices down, our kids are more likely to do the same.”
Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx are launching a national effort calling on parents and teens to join the Moment of Silence Campaign and stay safe while walking.
Moment of Silence Campaign
In 2012 Christina Morris-Ward was killed while crossing the street. She was wearing headphones and carrying a cell phone. While mobile devices are part of everyday life, we should remember that putting them down when crossing the street can be the difference between life and death. In memory of Christina and all those who have been killed or injured while crossing the street, Safe Kids is launching the Moment of Silence campaign. It’s easy to participate: simply commit to putting your device down and paying attention when crossing the street. Watch the video and learn more about the Moment of Silence campaign at safekids.org.
Tips for Parents
- From the first conversation you have with young children about crossing the street safely, talk about the dangers of distraction.
- Talk to teens about putting down mobile devices while walking and remind them of the importance of looking up, listening and making eye contact when crossing the street.
- Set a good example by putting devices down when you are driving or walking around cars.
Tips for Teens
- Put devices down, look up, listen, and make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
- Remember to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up. Walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners with traffic signals and crosswalks when possible.
- Be aware of others who may be distracted—and speak up when you see someone who is distracted.
- If you need to use a cell phone, stop on the sidewalk and find a safe area to talk.
- If you are wearing headphones, pull them down before you cross the street or turn the volume off.
- Driveways and parking lots can be especially dangerous because we are walking close to moving cars. Turn off devices in places where cars are going in unexpected directions, like backing out of a parking spot or turning out of a driveway.
Tips for Drivers
- When driving, look both ways for bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible or may step into the street unexpectedly.
- Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones.
- Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.