A recent study done by Safe Kids Worldwide has found drastic increases in teenage injuries and fatalities linked to crossing the street carelessly. Although crossing the road is a part of many teenagers’ everyday routine, few give a second thought as to how risky this seemingly simple task may be. When children are young, parents regularly remind them to look both ways and hold hands before crossing the street. Unfortunately, when the teenage years arrive, many teens throw all caution to the wind. Many teenagers, with their mindsets of invulnerability, take safety for granted and allow distractions to take priority over basic safety. Almost 80% of teens believe that pedestrian accidents affect mostly younger children, but in reality, older teenagers account for over half of street crossing fatalities in children up to nineteen years of age. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, pedestrian injuries among 16-19 year olds have increased by over 25% in the past five years. One in five high schoolers and one in eight middle schoolers cross the street while distracted.
What has caused this surprising and sudden increase in injuries and fatalities among teen walkers? All signs point to increased distractions by talking, texting, listening to music, and video games.. As technology becomes more prevalent in teenage culture, the danger of being distracted while walking increase greatly. 39% of distractions were attributed to texting, and another 39% were due to listening to music with ear buds in place. Another 20% of distractions occurred while talking on the phone, and the final 2% were linked to the use of hand-held video games. When a teenager becomes distracted by technology, the real world becomes blocked out, sometimes with deadly consequences.
Take time today to begin a conversation with your children about distracted walking, bike riding, or even driving, Convince your teen to put away the phone, put down the videogame, and take out the ear buds while moving. Hearing and seeing oncoming traffic might give them the few seconds they need to avoid disaster. Urge them to use all their senses, look both ways, and pay attention while crossing the street. While it is probably impossible to prevent all pedestrian injuries in children, increasing caution and decreasing distractions is a good place to start. Telling your teen to be careful while crossing the road may seem elementary and cliché, but it could save their life.
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Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.