Pedestrian Safety & Phone

It’s crazy out there…phones, cars, and pedestrians. Heads up and more.

Crossing the street with phones is not safe. This is a 2016 campaign reported in the (Pittsburgh) Tribune-Review
Pedestrians and Phones Seeking Danger!
photo credit: Andrew Russell, Tribune-Review

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I read that this column was originally about distracted driving. Well, how about distracted pedestrians? I live in the city and when I take the car out there are scooters and bikes to avoid, but the most dangerous seem to be the pedestrians who jaywalk and never look up from their phones. These people don’t pay any attention to the road! Conner,San Francisco

Dear Connor: You are in the right, except that you are in the car and you must keep safe at all cost. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are increasing. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found more pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year than in any year since 1990; approximately 17 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed each day.

It’s grim. Your only choice as an urban driver is to be uber-cautious and reduce your speed. In cities, I think humans now need to drive as if they were an autonomous car. They should have super-sensors, be programmed to give way to pedestrians (right or wrong), and travel at or below the posted speed limit. Fewer right-on-red turns would help too.

Calling Situational Awareness

When pedestrians use phones they have reduced situational awareness and distracted attention. A 2008 safety study gave 30 pedestrians mobile phones to talk on and another 30 pedestrians mobile phones to hold while walking on a prescribed route. The research team planted five obtrusive objects along the route. Pedestrians conversing on the mobile phones recalled fewer of the objects than did those holding a phone but not conversing. There’s a lot more research since then on reduced situational awareness from phones. The findings apply to both pedestrians and drivers. Imagine when both type of journey makers never register seeing one another!

Boot Camp for Peds

Here’s an expression that recruits to military boot camp learn: WALK TALL, WALK PROUD, HEAD UP, EYES FORWARD. For pedestrians, it’s a 21st century update to the old adage ‘look-left, look-right’ before crossing.


Safe Walk to School or Phone?

Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.

This is a logo for safe routes to school in Marin County, Ca.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon

Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.

That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.

There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.

You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.

Posting Kids Pics?

Are parents naive when they post kids pictures on social media like Instagram and Facebook?

source: deviantart

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Should I speak up? My nephew has two girls, ages 5 and 9. They are active and photogenic, and he set up an Instagram site for their pictures. In one of the posts the girls are lying on their backs, without tops. It looks suggestive. I’m not a prude, but it strikes me wrong. Dave, Brentwood

Dear Dave: If this photo was a one-off and not typical of his posts, maybe you should let it go. But otherwise, say something….it’s more about the ‘how’. First ask whether your nephew has thought of restricting access to the site to family members and personal friends. That said, one of them might still re-post.

The Child Rescue Coalition claims that 90 percent of children have been featured on social media by age 2. Most parents believe pictures of their children in the bath or naked are simply innocent snapshots of childhood and don’t realize that their postings can go far and wide.

An Australian source estimated that one half of 45 million child-porn images it found online were sourced from social media. They explain that while the photos copied from social media would not be considered exploitation material on their own, they were often accompanied by comments that ‘exploit’ the child.

A couple of years ago NPR did a piece you might want to replay for your nephew. Children have privacy rights, and may not want their parents to be sharing their pictures and stories. Think of it this way: a parent needs to set a good example for kids: weighing the social benefits of building community, and posting good photography and happy moments versus the lewder issues and privacy.

What to post- when not to post: It’s a thoughtful lesson for parents to discuss with their kids, item by item. And, it might explain why the number of Insta sites for dogs just grows and grows.