Don’t be Distracted by Distracted Walking

Pedestrian deaths and the use of smartphones rose in tandem over the past few years. Surely these trends are linked, right? Not so fast, argues Dr. Kelcie Ralph. In a careful review, she finds that while many people walk distracted,…

Don't be Distracted by Distracted Walking

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Pedestrian deaths and the use of smartphones rose in tandem over the past few years. Surely these trends are linked, right? Not so fast, argues Dr. Kelcie Ralph. In a careful review, she finds that while many people walk distracted, it does not appear to be as risky as many people assume. Other factors — such as increased use of SUVs and distracted driving — help explain the rise in pedestrian deaths. The Takeaway: We should be wary of the “distracted walking” narrative because it tends to shift our policies away from systematic solutions (such as lower speeds and improved street design) toward individual-level solutions (such as education campaigns and bans on distracted walking), which are less effective, subject to police bias, and inconsistent with Vision Zero principles.

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