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.