Distracted walking endangers Bellingham kids returning to school

Ah, the end of summer nears. Next week, Bellingham School District welcomes a new school year, and with it the return of school supplies, carpools, and heavy backpacks. 

About twenty years ago, the age group most at risk for being hit by a car while on foot was children aged 5 to 9. Luckily, nowadays, the death rate for kids of all ages in this category has dropped by half. 

But until that number is zero, there is still a danger for kids and drivers to think about. Most of those accidents occurred during the hours before and after school, and peaked in September, perhaps as everyone gets used to the idea of sharing the roads again. Cell phones are the culprit - the age group of kids most likely to get hit are teens, which is also the group most likely to be on their phones, walking distracted. The injury and death rates for teens has leveled off over the years, but it has not improved significantly. From National Safety Council:

Of the 484 pedestrians ages 19 and younger who died after being hit by a motor vehicle in 2013, 47 percent were age 15 to 19, according to Injury Facts 2015. We also know that 16,000 pedestrians 19 and younger were injured in 2013. That's 44 per day.

Government groups are doing their best to bring awareness to distracted walking. According to a recent study, kids between the ages of 13 - 17 send over 3,400 texts every day. Taking out the hours when they (should be) sleeping, that averages out to hundreds of messages every hour they're awake. Kids aren't allow to text in class. So, you can imagine there's a lot of catching up to do after classes get out, and kids are eager to get back on their phones. Check out this video to get an idea of the problem of distracted walking and teens. I've written about how deeply smart phones have are embedded in teens' lives, and back to school is an excellent time to talk to your kids about that again.

Parents, it's important that you remind your kids about healthy phone behavior: 

  • Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
  • If texting, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk
  • Never cross the street while using an electronic device
  • Do not walk with headphones on
  • Be aware of the surroundings
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available; if a child must walk on the street, he or she should face oncoming traffic
  • Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street
  • Cross only at crosswalks

It's not just up to kids to pay attention to their surroundings. They and other pedestrians are always at a disadvantage in a car vs. pedestrian crash. Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings and assume that those on foot won't see them. Also, if you're driving with your kids in the car, wouldn't you feel devastated if the accident you caused because of your distraction harmed them? 

 

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