Texting-while-walking accidents on the rise

Though researchers and lawmakers have spent considerable time and energy worrying about distracted driving, distracted walking is low on the radar, but possibly beginning to get a little bit of attention as both an annoying menace and possible danger.

The biggest danger is pedestrians crossing the street while texting. They’ve earned a derogatory name: “pedtextrians.”

What’s apparently the only serious study on the topic came out of Ohio State in 2008. Researchers found the number of emergency room visits attributed to walking and texting injuries doubled every year since 2006. The professor who led the study, Jack Nasar, told The Sun that unpublished follow-up data showed that the numbers continued to double through 2010.

A related study, done more recently at the University of Maryland Medical Center, looked at pedestrians who got hurt while wearing headphones. They found 116 deaths or injuries between 2004 to 2011 — mostly to men younger than 30 in urban areas.

In Toronto, police kicked off their “Heads Up! Distraction Can Be Fatal” campaign last Friday, highlighting how dangerous the distraction of portable media — mobile phones, blackberries, iPhones, iPads…— can be.

In New Jersey, police are so concerned that they’ve started issuing $85 tickets to pedestrians caught texting and jaywalking.

In Maryland, Johns Hopkins University plans to launch a safe-walking campaign, giving out “I Practice Safe X-ing” shirts and little yellow stickers made to slap onto cellphones as a reminder not to use them on the move. The school will also be installing reminders at crossings.

But much work still to be done.

“One of our employees tells me that right after the giveaway, he spotted a student crossing the street, texting — and wearing one of the shirts,” the university’s spokesman Dennis O’Shea said.