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5 ways to protect your teenager from distracted walking

By Ken Gibson on May 10, 2021

Here at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we work to educate our neighbors in Virginia about the dangers of distracted driving through our annual “Texts=Wrecks” Campaign. But there is another danger we should all be aware of, and that’s distracted walking.

While it does not cause as much destruction as distracted driving, distracted walking is a growing public safety concern. More pedestrians are being distracted by their phones now, putting them at risk for slip-and-fall injuries or being involved in a car accident.

Pedestrian accidents are a serious issue in Virginia, with more than 13,000 pedestrians suffering serious injuries in collisions and over 100 dying in a recent year.

To help keep your family safe, we’ve taken a deep dive into distracted walking, and we want to share with you how to avoid it.

What is distracted walking?

Distracted walking is any scenario in which a pedestrian is not paying attention to the world around him. This can include walking while listening to music or staring down at an iPhone, but also daydreaming, talking to other pedestrians, or staring at a billboard. Even rummaging through your purse while crossing the street can put you at greater risk of being struck by a car.

A distracted pedestrian can be injured in one of two ways:

  • Being hit by a vehicle: It’s easy to tune out while walking through a parking lot or jogging on the side of the road. Many people are glued to their phones and may be scrolling through social media in their free time, but this puts them at the mercy of nearby drivers. If a driver is distracted, speeding, or otherwise negligent, he could easily strike a pedestrian. If the pedestrian is also distracted, she can’t react to avoid or lessen the impact, possibly making her injuries worse.
  • Taking a fall: Pedestrians can lose their footing due to wet floors, broken or loose steps, cracked and raised sidewalks, or poorly lit stairways. Distracted pedestrians can run into obstacles right in front of them. While most of us can catch ourselves during a fall, being distracted can make it harder to do that, and more likely to suffer a catastrophic injury, such as a blow to the back or head.

Is distracted walking really dangerous?

We feel in control when we use our own two feet, but pedestrians today are never far from danger. More than 77% of car crashes occur within 15 miles of the victims’ homes, and pedestrians are almost twice as likely to be injured in accidents when compared with drivers. Given the risks of pedestrians suffering an injury or dying in a collision, drivers should be extra careful around them, and pedestrians should take their own steps to avoid getting hurt.

But distracted walking has worsened these issues. Four out of 10 Americans have admitted to witnessing a distracted walking accident, and over 25% have personally been involved in one. In fact, when surveyed, over 75% of people said it was a “serious” issue. While it is easy to admit there is a problem, solving it is much harder.

Teens are the most at-risk group

It is no surprise that teenagers today are easily distracted by their phones. There’s a new social media app every two years or so, and most teenagers prefer to watch Tik-Toks or Snapchat with their friends when given the chance.

Unfortunately, this has led to many injuries and several deaths. Almost 10% of all teen traffic fatalities in a recent year involved pedestrians, and teenagers and young children are already at a high risk of being hit while walking. When you factor in cellphone use on the teens’ part, you have a recipe for disaster.

Tips to avoid distracted walking

Nothing is more important to you than keeping your children safe. We at GibsonSingleton are parents ourselves and worry every day about how to protect our kids too.

We try to educate parents and teenagers through our “Texts=Wrecks” Campaign, and to that end, we have developed a few tips for dealing with distracted walking:

  1. Talk about the dangers with your kids: The most important thing you can do is sit down with your children and let them know that you are concerned about them. Most people are not even aware they get distracted until someone points it out to them. Explaining the dangers of being distracted as a pedestrian and how to watch out for negligent drivers can go a long way to keeping your kids safe.
  2. Teach them about sidewalk safety: Pedestrians are often injured along the side of the road, which is why pedestrians should always use the sidewalk where available. But in more rural parts of Virginia like ours, this may not be an option. If your teenager regularly has to walk or goes running along rural roads, make sure they know to stay as far from the road as possible and always face traffic. While facing traffic, pedestrians have a better chance of spotting dangerous drivers.
  3. Always use a crosswalk when available: In addition to being illegal, jaywalking is a bad habit to develop. Most people jaywalk out of impatience and step into the road because they don’t want to wait for a crosswalk. But crosswalks are much safer, and it’s good to remind teenagers of this.
  4. Practice what you preach: Any of us can get distracted, which why it’s valuable to set a good example. When out with your kids, avoid taking out your cellphone or staring at storefronts when crossing the road. Kids often learn from their parents at early ages, and minimizing your screen time while out and about will influence them.
  5. Go back to basics: The age-old phrase “look both ways” has saved numerous lives over the years and should not be forgotten. If you find your teenager getting distracted before crossing the street, make sure to repeat it. And never forget: look left, right, then left again.

What if my child was hit as a pedestrian?

If your child was hit by a negligent driver, call 911 and get medical care as soon as possible. While you may be worried about paying the medical bills, most pedestrians are covered under the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. If a negligent driver caused your child’s injuries, you may be able to recover compensation by filing an accident claim with that driver’s insurance. Your own car insurance policy may also help cover your bills if you have MedPay, or through uninsured motorist coverage if you were injured in a hit-and-run.

After getting your child medical treatment and talking to the police, reach out to our team at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. If you try working with the insurance adjuster on your own, the adjuster may give you a runaround, dismiss the injuries, or try to blame your child for the accident. Insurance companies can find excuses to reject pedestrian claims after a collision, and citing distracted walking is one way they can avoid paying you full compensation.

To get the money you need, let a, skilled attorney at GibsonSingleton handle your case. We know how insurance companies think, and we can counter their tactics. We don’t just fight hard for our clients; we fight smart. As former U.S. Marines, John and I know how to make a plan of action and execute it for our clients.

Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton. You are our neighbor, not a number. If your family member was injured by a negligent driver, let our Virginia injury attorneys take a look at your case. We can sit down with you in a free consultation, listen to what happened, learn about the injuries, and go to work getting you full compensation. We are not afraid to stand up to big insurance companies, and we will not back down. Call us today at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777.

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Community service

Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.