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Distracted walking has become a major problem nationwide. Pedestrians are walking in front of cars, across railroad tracks, into street signs, even doors. They are even falling off curbs and bridges. Distracted walkers have suffered minor injuries – cuts and bruises, but some sustained serious injuries – concussions or broken bones, even death. Just last week, a 51-year-old Colorado woman suffered life-threatening injuries after she was hit by a car while crossing in the middle of the road. She was wearing earbuds. A teenager was distracted by her cell phone when she walked into oncoming traffic. Investigators believe a 16-year-old was wearing earbuds and listening to music when he was struck and killed by a train. No matter where we go, people feel the need to be connected 24/7.

Surveys have shown that 60% of pedestrians are distracted by other activities while walking. The Fatality Analysis Reporting system (FARS), a nationwide census providing NHTSA, attributes about a half-dozen pedestrians deaths a year to “portable electronic devices,” including phones and music players. Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years. Despite these reports, persuading more people to put their heads up and their cellphones down has not been easy, especially as more people are becoming increasingly dependent on smartphones.

When distracted, pedestrians are more likely to not see, hear or otherwise know they are putting themselves in danger. Our streets are not the only place we see distracted pedestrians. Pedestrians talking or texting on the phone, listening to music, or otherwise absorbed in thought are making themselves more vulnerable by tuning out their surroundings. We see it every day, but not just on our roadways. We see people texting or talking on a cell phone while grocery shopping or waiting to catch a flight; kids break out the cell phone as soon as they step out of the classroom. Others become distracted in thought or by friends, kids, and pets.  Pedestrians have fallen flat on their face, run into brick walls or poles, fell in holes, and flipped over objects because they are not paying attention to where they are walking. They are multi-tasking or in a rush. Just last week, an employee suffered a concussion after running into a beam between double doors. She wasn’t distracted by a cell phone or music; she was just in a hurry and not paying attention.

While some states are proposing laws banning pedestrians from using cell phones and other technological gadgets, many individuals say that such laws are not necessary; pedestrians should accept personal responsibility for their inattentive behavior. Whether state laws are enacted or not, the fact remains that people really need to be aware that they are impacting their safety by texting or talking on the cellphone or engaging in other distractions while walking. A distraction should not be the reason you are seriously injured or lose your life. Always pay attention while you are walking; focus on what is ahead and listen to what is happening behind you.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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