ER Visits On The Rise Due To Distracted Walking
June 19, 2013

ER Visits On The Rise Due To Distracted Walking

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Over a thousand pedestrians had to make a trip to the emergency room in 2010 for injuries related to using their cell phone and walking.

According to a new nationwide study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, more than 1,500 pedestrians were injured while walking due to cell phone distractions. This number has more than doubled since 2005, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that time. The researchers from this study even believe that the number is actually higher than results show.

“If current trends continue, I wouldn´t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015,” said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University. “The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians.”

Nasar and colleagues found that people between the ages 16- and 25-years-old were most likely to be injured from distracted walking, and most were hurt while talking rather than texting. The team used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to make the finding. They examined data for seven years involving injuries related to cell phone use for pedestrians in public areas.

In 2004, about 559 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to distracted walking due to a cell phone. The number dropped to just 256 in 2005, but has risen every year since. The total number of pedestrians to be treated in an emergency room has dropped form 97,000 in 2004 to 41,000 in 2010.

Nasar said he believes emergency room numbers underestimate actual injuries because not every person who is injured goes to an emergency room, such as those who are uninsured.

“It is impossible to say whether 2 million distracted pedestrians are really injured each year. But I think it is safe to say that the numbers we have are much lower than what is really happening,” Nasar said.

The study found that the 21- to 25-year-old age group led the way for being most likely to get injured while walking and talking or texting. This age group had a total number of 1,003 injuries during the seven years covered by this study. The 16- to 20-year-olds were not far behind in second place, capturing 985 total injuries in seven years.

Nasar said he doesn't believe the lower texting injury rate is because texting is safer, but instead because fewer people actually text while walking than talk while on foot.

“As more people get cell phones and spend more time using them, the number of injuries is likely to increase as well. Now people are playing games and using social media on their phones too,” he said.

The researcher said he believes the best way to reverse these numbers is to have parents teach their children the dangers of using their cell phone while walking.

"They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street," Nasar said.

In another recent study, researchers from the University of Maryland discovered 116 cases over a six year period where pedestrians suffered major injuries or died from wearing headphones while distracted walking.