The Dangers of Distracted Walking in Minnesota

In recent years, many traffic safety organizations focused on the dangers of distracted driving. Several states, including Minnesota, and local jurisdictions passed comprehensive cell phone laws. Most places have not, however, considered dangers associated with distracted walking. Yet changing your walking habits could save your life.

The Dangers of Distracted Walking

As people grow accustomed to using mobile technology in daily life, they often look down at the screen absentmindedly during all sorts of activities. The advent of augmented reality games such as Pokémon GoTM and the sheer number of tasks people complete using a handheld mobile device increases the number of chances an individual may feel the need to look down.

In 2015, 41 people lost their lives and 904 people were injured in pedestrian accidents in Minnesota. Several safety councils at state and federal levels are associating more pedestrian incidents with distracted walking behaviors. Young gamers aren’t the only ones unlocking their screens on the go. Business professionals waiting for important emails, tourists following a GPS route, and individuals looking for current retail deals may all look down without thinking and trip, cross roads, or forget to look both ways.

According to information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, one of the most common factors in pedestrian responsible crashes during 2015 was failure to follow road rules. Distracted walking often accompanies other unsafe walking behaviors, including taking longer to cross a roadway.

Pedestrians may not see their distracted walking behaviors as unsafe and might assume they can see enough in their peripheral vision to travel safely. However, peripheral vision automatically drops anytime you look at a mobile device. Combined with unsafe driving behaviors, distracted walking can increase a pedestrian’s accident risk.

Is New Legislation Around the Corner?

Legislators in some state want to impose distracted walking regulations that would outlaw texting while walking. Those caught engaging in unsafe behaviors could face jail time or a small fine.

Others consider banning distracted behaviors to be a slippery slope. Would states also consider imposing restrictions on other activities such as eating?

For now, distracted walking remains a concern, but not an illegal activity. Those who continue to engage in distracted walking activities more or less accept the risks associated with the behavior. Statistically, you are more likely to cause an accident if you are distracted during any movement-related activity – period. With education and common sense, states may reduce instances of distraction without resorting to extreme measures.

Tips for Staying Safe as a Pedestrian in Minnesota

Whether you walk to your car from the grocery store or head down a busy city street to meet a client for lunch, use these tips to reduce distractions and stay safe while walking:

  • Use caution when walking around roadways. Make eye contact with drivers, and remember that drivers behind the closest vehicle may instigate an injurious accident. Put your phone away as you cross the street and remember to look both ways.
  • Pause to read or send a text. Similar to safe driving practices, you will not lose much time if you pause on the sidewalk to use your phone. Move away from high traffic areas to use your phone, and then resume walking activities.
  • Put the headphones down. If you lose peripheral vision while looking down at a mobile device and you cannot hear approaching traffic, you significantly increase the risks associated with walking. Leave one earbud out, at a minimum, while walking or running.

Many pedestrians shake their heads in disbelief when they read stories of gamers getting hit in parking lots or while crossing the street. Use caution about when and how you use your mobile device to reduce the dangers of distracted driving in Minnesota and avoid becoming a statistic.