Last week the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report stating that 2017 pedestrian fatalities were at a 25-year high. What’s notable is that in recent years, the number of pedestrian fatalities has increased 28% while during the same time period other traffic deaths decreased. Speculation for this alarming pedestrian death toll is linked to the growth in Smartphones nationwide.
Cellphone use among walkers and drivers is on the rise and so are the safety issues related to distracted walking. We are all well aware of the deadly consequences of distracted driving. But distracted walking? Drivers need to be prepared, now more than ever, for the distracted pedestrian who is oblivious to traffic around them creating hazards in their path. Typing (texting) or reading a text alters a pedestrian’s gait, speed, and walking pattern, according to a recent study. Campaigns such as the The “Digital Deadwalkers” YouTube video distributed in 2016 humorously highlights what can happen when pedestrians focus on anything other than the task of walking.
If drivers are texting and pedestrians have their head down and are unaware of their surroundings, no wonder the rate of fatalities is on the rise. Driver education needs to train on hazard avoidance with distracted pedestrians as a top contender on the hazard list.
Virtual Driving Essentials is VDI’s teen driving program that includes training on complex driving situations such as intersections where most pedestrian injuries occur. We train teen drivers about the consequences of driving or walking while distracted in a virtual world – which has proven to change their behavior. There is no substitute for the shocking experience of feeling like you’ve accidently harmed another person.