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Plugged in, tuned out: Teen distraction increases pedestrian accidents

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Thu Jan 30, 2014.

(BPT) - From dating to driving to curfews, there’s a lot to worry about if you have a teenager. You want to keep your child safe and likely have talked about distracted driving and avoiding texting while behind the wheel, but technology can be distracting while walking, too. More teens are plugged in and tuning out to the world around them. An alarming 39 percent were observed typing on a phone, and 39 percent were wearing headphones while crossing the road.

One in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while distracted by things like music, texting and digital games, according “Teens and Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” a report from Safe Kids Worldwide made possible with support from FedEx. The study observed 34,000 students nationwide crossing streets in school zones.

Crossing the street while distracted by technology can mean the difference between life and death. In 2012, Christina Morris-Ward, a 15-year old girl in Montgomery County, Md., was killed while crossing the street because she was distracted by headphones and a cell phone. While teens use their favorite technologies every day, it’s important for parents to encourage them to put down their devices when crossing any road.

You may remember the early years of reminding your youngster to look both ways before crossing the road. Now that your children are teenagers, it’s time to have the talk again, but with a slightly different approach. Talk to teens about being responsible pedestrians by putting down mobile devices while walking and remind them of the importance of looking up, listening and making eye contact with drivers when crossing the street. And set a good example by putting your own devices down when driving or crossing the street.

Keep these tips in mind whenever you cross the road:

1. Put devices down, look left, right and left again, listen and make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.

2. Remember to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up because visibility is limited. When possible, walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners with traffic signals and crosswalks.

3. Be aware of others who may be distracted and speak up when you see someone who is distracted.

4. 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.

5. Driveways and parking lots can be especially dangerous because pedestrians walk 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.

Finally, teens aren’t the only ones who are distracted. Being a responsible driver means eliminating distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road, too. Be extra aware of pedestrians in residential areas and school zones. Look for bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible or may step into the street unexpectedly.

In memory of Christina and all those who have been killed or injured while crossing the street, Safe Kids and FedEx launched the Moment of Silence campaign. Participate by pledging to put your device down and pay attention when crossing the street. Watch the video and learn more about the Moment of Silence campaign at safekids.org/silence.

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