Health & Medicine

Injuries on the rise as teens focus on phones instead of traffic

Every morning, parents send their children out the door with homework, lunch money and backpacks. But one item many teens are carrying today could seriously jeopardize their safety as they cross the streets.

Distractions caused by smart phones, headphones and other mobile devices are making walking more dangerous for all pedestrians, but a new report suggests teens are especially at risk. More than half of teens admit to crossing streets while distracted by a mobile device.

According to a recent Safe Kids International and FedEx survey, every hour, a teen pedestrian is injured or killed after being hit by a car in the United States. In a survey of 1,000 teens, 40 percent reported being hit or almost hit by a car, bike or motorcycle while walking. In 2012, 10,000 teens were injured in a pedestrian accident, and teens account for two-thirds of all child pedestrian fatalities in the country.

Most teens involved in incidents also reported using a mobile device, including a music player or cellphone, at the time they were hit or nearly hit. Twenty percent of teens were talking on the phone, 18 percent were texting and 47 percent were listening to the music at the time of the incident. As of September 2012, 78 percent of teens owned a cellphone and 37 percent owned a smartphone. Sixty-three percent of teens said almost everyone they know walks and texts at the same time. Additionally, pedestrian run-ins with vehicles can be attributed to risky crossing behaviors, such as running across the street or crossing in the middle of a block.

Parents and teens should discuss a few safety points:

n Take action against distraction. In 2012, 15-year-old Christina Morris-Ward was killed while crossing a street just two blocks from her high school. She was wearing headphones and looking at her phone when she was struck. In Christina's memory, many teens are taking the Moment of Silence Pledge and putting down their phones while walking and crossing the street If they won't remove headphones while walking, advise teens to at least lower the volume.

n Stay on sidewalks and use crosswalks. If no sidewalks are available, walk facing traffic as far away from oncoming vehicles as possible.

n Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Pedestrians should also watch out for cars that are turning.

To review the Teens on the Move Survey, go to Safekids.org.

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