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Injuries Continue to Climb for Pedestrians On Cell Phones

Distracted walking has become a big problem in the United States. An estimated 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to cell phone usage while walking, according to a new nationwide study.

The number of such injuries has more than doubled since 2005, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that time. And researchers believe that the actual number of injured pedestrians is actually much higher than these results suggest.

The study found that young people ages 16 to 25 were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians. Most were hurt while talking rather than texting.

A wide variety of injuries were reported. One 14-year-old boy walking down a road while talking on a cell phone fell eight feet off a bridge, suffering chest and shoulder injuries. A 23-year-old man was struck by a car while walking on the middle line of a road while talking on a cell phone.

Experts believe the number of injuries to distracted pedestrians is actually much higher than these statistics suggest. A more accurate count of injuries to walkers might come from comparing distracted walking to distracted driving, which has been much more heavily studied.

If the pedestrian numbers are similar to those for drivers, then there may have been about two million pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use in 2010. Moreover, experts believe emergency room numbers underestimate actual injuries because not every person who is injured goes to an emergency room.

Uninsured people might not go to an ER at all. Other people might take care of themselves, or go to an urgent care center. In addition, not everyone who does go to an emergency room reports using a cell phone.

As might be expected, young people are the most likely to be injured by distracted walking. The 21- to 25-year-old age group led the way, with 1,003 total injuries during the seven years covered by this study. Those aged 16- to 20-year-olds were not far behind, with 985 total injuries.

For pedestrians, talking on the phone accounted for about 69 percent of injuries, compared to texting, which accounted for about nine percent. That may reflect the fact that fewer people actually text while walking than talk while on foot.