Car accidents, unfortunately, cause many deaths each year, including an increasing number of pedestrian deaths. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s recent data, in 2019, motor vehicle accidents killed more than 6,500 pedestrians. This data represents the highest number of pedestrian deaths in over 30 years.
No one can pinpoint the exact cause of the startling increase in MVA-related pedestrian fatalities. However, many experts point to the link between increased smartphone use and the sudden spike in pedestrian deaths.
What is inattentional blindness?
Research shows that when a person focuses his or her attention on a particular thing — a phone screen, for example — he or she loses nearly all visible perception of his or her surroundings. Scientists refer to this effect as “inattentional blindness.” In studies, more than 60% of people veered substantially off-course when asked to use a phone and walk at the same time. It is, therefore, no surprise that pedestrians are much more likely to be seriously injured or even killed while looking at their phones.
What can pedestrians do to stay safer?
The easy answer is to simply put the phone away while walking. Experts say that pedestrians who must use their phones can stay safer by following these tips:
- Keep the volume low enough to hear traffic sounds. If using earbuds, wear them in only one ear.
- Do not look down at the phone. Instead, hold the screen up at eye level.
- When possible, use voice-to-text and other voice controls rather than looking at the screen to type.
Inattentional blindness is a dangerous problem for both drivers and pedestrians. For now, there does not appear to be a solution on the horizon…or the screen.