The Dangers of Distracted Walking in NYC


While distracted driving can cause injuries and death, and is a major concern in New York City and the rest of the country, the dangers of distracted walking should not be ignored. The consequences of listening to music while walking, texting, or looking down at a cellphone could be serious. Injury Facts 2015, published by the National Safety Council, found that over an 11-year period, distracted walking led to more than 11,000 injuries.

Distracted walking is becoming a serious enough of a problem that policymakers in some U.S. cities have even proposed legislation aimed at targeting distracted walkers, and a city in Germany has taken things a step further by putting traffic lights in the ground so that people who are distracted by their cellphones – and therefore have their eyes down – might be able to see them better (read the full story at

The following defines what distracted walking is, why it is so dangerous, how cities are addressing the issue of distracted walking, and what you should do if distracted walking contributes to an accident.

What Is Distracted Walking?

There are millions of people walking around every day in New York. Distracted walking may be an even bigger problem in this city than it is in others, based on population and congestion alone. Distracted walking refers to any instances where an individual is walking while they are distracted. While texting and walking is the most common form of distraction, it is certainly not the only one. Other forms of distracted walking include:

  • Listening to music
  • Reading or sending an email
  • Talking on the phone
  • Using different mobile applications
  • Surfing the web
  • Day dreaming
  • Using maps/GPS
  • Eating or drinking

In fact, even talking to a friend who is walking alongside of you can be distracting if your attention is shifted from the task at hand – walking – to the conversation that you are engaged in.

Why Is Distracted Walking So Dangerous?

It may seem relatively harmless to be strolling through Central Park in NYC, chatting casually with a friend about the week’s happenings. And to be fair, this situation is relatively harmless, especially if both people engaged in the conversation are also paying attention to where they are walking to reduce the risk of a trip.

When things get dangerous is when people are so distracted that they are no longer paying attention to the things around them, ranging from other pedestrians, to hazards in their path that may cause a slip and fall, to oncoming vehicles. Typically, pedestrians who are more at risk for these types of accidents are those who are visually and cognitively distracted, which is why texting and walking – which requires your eyes and your mind – can be so dangerous. It is impossible to see where you are going and think about the steps you are taking when you are reading or composing a text message (or using your phone for a variety of other purposes).

Listening to music can also be extremely dangerous, even though listening to music is not a visual distraction. This is because listening to music prevents you from being able to hear approaching vehicles, be it a bike from behind you or a car that is about to turn right into your path.

Distracted Walking & Pedestrian Accidents

When a person is distracted while walking, their risk of being in an accident is much greater. Just consider these statistics:

  • Pedestrian injuries due to cellphone use are up 35 percent from 2010 (source: Pew Charitable Trusts).
  • At least 10 percent of pedestrian injuries in the United States are thought to be caused by mobile phone distraction (source: Pew Charitable Trusts).
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased 15 percent from 2009 to 2013 (source: ABC News).
  • The number of emergency room visits related to distracted walking more than doubled between 2005 and 2010 (source: CBS News).

While the statistics above are harrowing, 78 percent of Americans said that they think that distracted walking is a serious problem, according to CBS News, a sign that people, at least to some extent, understand the dangers of texting and walking.

So What Are Cities Doing About It?

The problem of distracted walking is not an easy one to solve – after all, more people have smartphones and mobile devices than ever before, and walking is a great thing, promoting health and environmental protection. Because banning cellphones, or limiting walking, are both unrealistic solutions (and plain bad ideas), cities are exploring other ways to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted walking.

One city in Germany is tackling the problem by installing traffic lights in the ground, hoping that pedestrians with their eyes down will notice them, reducing the risk of a pedestrian walking into traffic when they should yield. New Jersey is taking a very different approach. Lawmakers there have proposed legislation that would fine those who are walking while distracted. The penalty for distracted walking, under the new law, would be a ticket of up to $50 or 15 days in jail, or both, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Our Experienced New York Pedestrian Attorneys Can Help

If you have been in a pedestrian accident in New York, our attorneys can help you recover the damages that you deserve, even if you contributed to your accident through your own distracted behavior. To learn more about your right to file a slip and fall claim in New York, contact David Resnick & Associates, P.C., today for a free case consultation.

Author: David Resnick

Founder of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., a New York personal injury law firm in charge of providing exceptional and personal service to each of our clients in various areas including car accidents, slip and fall, wrongful death, construction accidents, and premises liability. David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care.

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