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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pedestrians need to be more aware of surroundings

    Don’t blame the victim of an accident — unless they also happen to be the cause. We often think we’re invincible and can get away with multitasking like using cellphones while walking, but the number of pedestrian accidents is on the rise and the distracting devices may be the cause.

    According to the Arizona Daily Star, there have been 21 fatal pedestrian accidents this year in Tucson, while the average is 15. There are also typically 300 or more nonfatal pedestrian accidents in the city.

    In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 4,432 pedestrian deaths nationwide.

    These startling numbers demand action. We’re quick to blame the driver and their possible distractions, but according to Sgt. Filbert Barrera, University of Arizona Police Department Crime Prevention Officer, distracted pedestrians can also play a role in accidents. This problem affects everyone, and there needs to be a national conversation regarding pedestrian use of cell phones so we can move forward and place restrictions on the distractions.

    “They’re walking on the phone or looking at their device — they’re not really focused on their surroundings,” Barrera said. “People assume that [vehicles] will stop for them. That can be a mistake.”

    Earlier this year, a woman was crossing Second Street and Campbell Avenue, when she stepped into the path of a vehicle while looking at her cellphone. She survived but was severely injured.

    “From when I started 15 years ago … back then we didn’t have cellphones or tablets,” Barrera said. “Now we have handheld computers, and there are a lot of people that are distracted while they’re walking.”

    A recent study conducted at Ohio State University showed that cellphone related pedestrian accidents have more than doubled since 2005, particularly involving pedestrians between the ages of 16 and 25. Most of us are guilty of multitasking and using our electronic devices when we should be paying better attention. It’s important to be aware of immediate surroundings to prevent even the most minor accidents.

    The University of North Carolina participates in “Watch for Me NC,” a campaign that works to promote safety for drivers and pedestrians through educational messages and special police enforcement of pedestrian laws. Safety classes for pedestrians and bikers aimed at explaining the danger of cellphone distractions would help to drill it into the minds of students and faculty alike.

    Heavily monitored police involvement in reporting and citing these accidents would also warn people. In the first four weeks of the semester, more than 200 bicycle tickets were issued on campus.

    UAPD hoped it would get the message out that careless bikers would face consequences, according to Barrera. Pedestrians should face similar consequences when violating the safety of themselves and others.

    “Truth be told, I look at my phone a lot while walking,” said Lukas Johnsen, a senior studying English. “I make a point to look where I’m going when crossing bike lanes when things get crowded, but I can’t really knock people for doing the same.”

    Students admit to using their devices while walking around campus despite knowing possible dangers, and the issue will continue to persist as long as people are hurried to communicate while travelling from point A to point B.

    “People crossing the street need to be more vigilant to their surroundings while texting,” said junior psychology and pre-law student Charnjeet Khaira, who has seen distracted people get hit while crossing into the bike lane.

    It’s time we talk about this issue and push for a resolution. It starts with recognizing the problem and convincing others to do the same. A text can wait for your safety.

    Kalli Ricka Wolf is a journalism junior. Follow her @kalli3wolf.

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