(BPT) - When it comes to keeping young walkers safe on America’s roads, the country has made great strides: child pedestrian deaths have plunged 53 percent and injuries are down 44 percent since 1995, according to a study by Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx. Still, the study also indicates that bigger steps are needed to improve pedestrian safety overall, and particularly for teenagers.
Daily, more than 61 children seek medical attention for injuries sustained while walking, and more than 500 children die every year in pedestrian accidents. Teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19 are now the most at-risk age group, accounting for 50 percent of child pedestrian injuries in the past five years. The death rate among teens is now twice that of younger children.
“The study, Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation, tells us two things,” says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “While our focus on younger kids, through programs such as ‘Walk this Way,’ has made a tremendous difference, we need to turn the spotlight - and our collective efforts - on this disturbing trend impacting our teenagers.”
While the dangers of distracted driving are becoming well known, pedestrian fatalities and injuries may also be linked to distraction.
“The increase in teen injuries seems to correlate with the prevalence of cellphone use, both among walkers and drivers,” Carr says. Seventy-five percent of teens now own cellphones, compared with just 45 percent in 2004.
Tips to make teens safer
Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx created the Safe Kids Walk This Way initiative to teach safe behavior to motorists and child pedestrians. Program organizers offer some tips for helping make teen pedestrians safer.
* Whenever possible, cross the street at the corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Most walking injuries happen mid-block or someplace other than at intersections.
* Look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Keep looking and listening while crossing.
* Walk, don’t run, when crossing the street.
* Walking on sidewalks or paths is always best, but if not available, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
* Remove headphones when crossing the street. It’s important to minimize distractions and listen to what’s going on around you.
* If you need to use your phone, stop walking.
* Drivers are more distracted than ever, so try to make eye contact with drivers before you step into the road.
* Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones, before and after school hours.
* Most walkers are injured mid-block, not at intersections, so watch out for kids who may dart into traffic or cross where they shouldn’t.
* Give pedestrians the right of way at a crosswalk.
* Using a cellphone, even one that’s hands-free, makes it harder to be alert to walkers – who may also be distracted on cellphones.