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Study shows dangers teens face while using technology and walking

A new study from Safe Kids Worldwide indicates that distractions caused by technology pose a threat to kids’ safety as they’re walking.

The report shows one in five high school students and one in eight middle schoolers cross the street while distracted by an electronic device.

The results are based on observing over 34,000 students at 68 schools in 17 states.

Jennifer McCue, Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children’s Trauma Program, calls the study important to raising awareness to an issue that receives little attention.

“Many of us know the risks of driving a car and being distracted, but many of us don’t think about walking,” said McCue.

Texting and listening to headphones are the biggest distractions, according to the report. Each accounted for 39 percent of the students considered distracted while crossing a street. 20 percent were distracted by talking on a cell phone and 2 percent by games or tablets.

McCue, who also serves as chair for Safe Kids Delaware and New Castle County, says reaching kids who are growing up with these devices an every day part of their lives is critical.

“It is important to start educating children early so that they form safe behaviors and continue those behaviors as they as they grow older,” McCue said. “There is a time and place for technology. It’s just important that when you are crossing the street that you put those devices down.”

This study was prompted by a previous report that pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19 year olds increased 25 percent over the last five years

McCue says in Delaware kids 19 and under accounted for 32 percent of the state’s nearly 400 reported pedestrian crashes in 2012.

But the study, which also survey about 2,400 students, indicates kids don’t see the problem. 78 percent surveyed say they believe other age groups are more likely to be involved in a pedestrian accident.

McCue says that’s why educating both kids and their parents about the issue is vital.

“It is important for parents also to provide that education to their children, and as they get older and they get their first mobile device to teach them the important of putting that device down when they’re crossing the street,” said McCue.

Safe Kids New Castle County is also trying to reach families by joining the National “Moment of Silence” campaign. That’s asking kids and parents to sign a pledge to put down devices while crossing the street.

Safe Kids also offers a variety of tips for parents, kids and drivers:

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.