Pedestrians need to look up from their smartphones to avoid injuries: police

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some new numbers out of the US show a disturbing trend — tens of thousands of people are being injured because they can’t take their eyes off their smartphone. And it’s not just an issue south of the line, it’s a big problem here as well and police are hoping distracted pedestrians take the simple step of looking up.

Vancouver Police Constable Brian Montague says they see it all the time, people crossing the street or stepping into traffic without looking because they’ve got their heads buried in their phones.

“When you get a pedestrian hit by a car, the pedestrian is going to lose. There is no law against distracted walking. There are laws for pedestrians when it comes to traffic safety if they cross the street against the light or signal, jaywalking, that sort of thing — but there is no law that says you can’t look at your phone and walk at the same time.”

He adds if someone is distracted and they’re hit by a car, it’s hard to pinpoint who’s to blame.

“The public focuses so much on who’s at fault, rather than preventing the collision in the first place. If I’m walking down the street, my first instinct is to get where I’m going safely — not to get hit by a car. Whether it’s my fault or the driver’s fault, it doesn’t matter, because in a collision I’m going to lose as a pedestrian. In a collision there are many factors involved, it may not be the pedestrian’s fault, but the actions of a pedestrian may contribute. The factors in a collision are many, not just one and some of those factors may be contributed to both driver and pedestrian.”

Its common sense, before you step off the curb, do a shoulder check, make sure the driver sees you and put your phone away. “An individual who hits a pedestrian generally doesn’t mean to do so. It’s a lapse in judgement, sometimes it’s a case of making an error in law — meaning they do something illegally — but generally they have no intent of running somebody over. There are collisions that are preventable.”

Montague adds they see people who are so distracted they’re getting injured because they’ve walked into a pole or street sign. “You see people that are clearly not paying attention. They’re bumping into other people, they’re bumping into stationary objects, they’re tripping over curbs, again these are preventable. It’s extremely frustrating to deal with these things because people aren’t paying attention.”

“I can stand there in uniform and watch people cross against red lights in front of me. I can stand there in uniform and watch people do a number of illegal things because they’re in a hurry, maybe it’s because they think they’re more important than everybody else on the road. I’m sure there are a variety of excuses they’d give you if you stopped them and asked them, but people are willing to take the risk and it’s a risk that can be deadly.”

A new US study found more than 3,100 pedestrians died and 424,000 were hurt in 2013 because they were distracted by their phones. It also found at any given moment on the streets of America, 60 per cent of pedestrians are distracted, either because they are talking on their phone or doing something else on it.

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