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The Potentially Deadly Mistake 1 in 3 of You Makes

If you’ve got a cell phone or an iPod, you might be guilty of this dumb—and dangerous—behavior.

“Look both ways before crossing!” You can almost hear your mom’s (slightly raised, sort of annoyed) voice, right?

But while it’s seemingly infantile advice, lots of grown ups aren’t doing it, finds a brand new study out of the University of Washington. That’s right: distracted walking—most often while fiddling with our cell phones—is the new distracted driving. It’s officially legit. And if you're not careful, it can land you in the E.R.

In the study, published yesterday in the online journal Injury Prevention, researchers watched more than 1000 pedestrians crossing 20 busy intersections in Seattle this past summer, and found that almost one in three (just under 30%) were doing something else related to their “mobile device” when they crossed the road: 11% were listening to music; 7% were texting; and 6% were talking on the phone.

Okay. What’s the big deal?

  • Distracted walkers took significantly longer to cross the road (.75 to 1.29 seconds).
  • Those listening to music were less likely to look both ways before crossing.
  • Texters were almost four times more likely to ignore lights, cross at the middle of the junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the curb.

So listen, we know your adults. We know you’re not idiots. Just do us a favor and be careful when you're out for a run or rushing to work? (Maybe put it in your pocket for a few minutes?) When crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians injure 60,000 people and kill another 4,000 every year in the US, it just seems silly to ignore this very real risk.

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