photo: 400tmax/iStock

How Not to be a Distracted Pedestrian

By AMA Staff

You’ve seen them. Stumbling over curbs, gazing downward at their gadgets with glazed expressions on their faces: distracted pedestrians. Or maybe you’re the one lurching across intersections while sending “LOLs” to your friends.

It’s time to cut it out. A 2012 study for the American journal Injury Prevention found that distracting activities, such as texting, talking on cellphones and listening to music, resulted in not-so-safe road crossings. Texters were most at risk, crossing 18 per cent slower than non-distracted pedestrians. They were also four times as likely to demonstrate unsafe crossing behaviours, like disobeying lights and not looking both ways. Of course, this data was compiled before Pokemon Go turned many of us into screen-obsessed collectors of augmented-reality beasts. Such distractions are more prevalent than ever, and they’re only likely to increase.

Some tips to help keep you stay safe on the street—and ensure you don’t become an unintended hazard to drivers:

• Keep a clear head. Pedestrian impairment is a problem in Alberta. More than 45 per cent of pedestrians in fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012—and 13 percent in injury crashes—had consumed alcohol.

• Distractions like smartphones and loud music don’t improve safety, either. Pocket your gadgets and remove headphones to be at your most alert when crossing.

• Don’t assume cars will stop. Yes, they’re supposed to, but why take the chance? Be sure drivers and cyclists see you—make eye contact. At dusk and at night, wear light-coloured clothing or reflective strips if possible.

• Cross at marked crosswalks. Not mid-block and never between parked cars. Jaywalking is illegal; fines will run you up to $60 in Calgary and $250 in Edmonton.

• Cross only when traffic has come to a complete stop. Use pedestrian-operated signals, if they’re present. While crossing, watch for turning vehicles and scan constantly for traffic.