By Cherie Sage
Fifteen-year old Christina Morris-Ward was only two blocks from school that Halloween morning in 2012. A typical teenager, Christina was dressed in dark clothes and wearing headphones. But as she glanced down at her phone as she crossed the street, an oncoming car struck and killed her.
When we think about pedestrian safety, we often think about our younger children. But you may be surprised to learn the most at-risk age group for pedestrian injuries has shifted since 1995 when 5-9 year olds sustained the most injuries, to today when teens are at greatest risk. Today, the death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger children. In the last five years, injuries among 16-19 year olds have jumped 25 percent over the previous five years. Today, 14-19 year olds account for half of all child pedestrian injuries. This is an alarming trend.
While walking safety has improved overall for children, there are still a staggering number of children hit by cars. More than 61 children are injured every day severely enough to seek medical attention. More than 500 children are killed every year in the U.S.
One cause of this disturbing trend is distraction. A study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide and supported by FedEx showed one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while distracted. Thirty-nine percent of the students who are crossing the street while distracted are typing on a cell phone and 39 percent are listening to headphones. The remaining students are talking on the phone (20 percent) or using another electronic device, such as a tablet or game (2 percent). The study also found from discussions almost half of the students (49 percent) say they use a cell phone while walking to school. Four out of 10 say they listen to music while walking. Interestingly, while teens are at the greatest risk for pedestrian crashes, only 22 percent of students say it is kids their own age who are most likely to be hit by a car while walking. This distraction and a misperception of risk can lead to deadly results.
With approximately 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds owning cell phones, it’s important to talk to your children about putting phones away and paying attention when walking. Mobile devices are part of everyday life, but we should remember that putting them down when crossing the street can be the difference between life and death. In memory of Christina and all those who have been killed or injured while crossing the street, Safe Kids launched the Moment of Silence campaign. It’s easy to participate: simply commit to putting your device down and paying attention when crossing the street. For more information about the campaign, watch this video: http://www.safekids.org/video/video-moment-silence.
For a list of safe walking tips, http://www.safekids.org/walkingsafelytips
Cherie Sage is the State Director for Safe Kids Kansas