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Teens and distractions – a dangerous mix

If you are anything like me, there are some days that I feel completely distracted. Sometimes it’s a deadline that I’m working towards or a project that I forgot and need to get to the moment I walk into work – but in many cases – it’s that darn SmartPhone – phone calls, emails, Pinterest, Facebook, the weather – you name it! We live in a world of distractions.

Teenagers are no different! One in five high school students and one in eight middle school students crosses the street while distracted, according to a new research report released this week by Safe Kids Worldwide.

The report, “Teens and Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” made possible with support from FedEx®, presents an observational study that recorded more than 34,000 middle and high school students crossing the street in a school zone. Conducted in 17 states and 68 schools, the study looked at whether teens are crossing the street while distracted, and if so, what devices they are using.

According to the research, 39 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 was developed to explore findings from a 2012 Safe Kids report that found pedestrian injuries among 16-19 year olds increased 25 percent over the previous five years. Teens now account for half of all pedestrian deaths among children 19 and under.

We as a country had been doing so well in injury prevention – but distractions are starting to reverse that trend. Safe Kids suspected that the increase was due to distraction by mobile devices, but there was not much data to support that conclusion. To understand the scope of the problem, Safe Kids activated their network to observe 34,000 students crossing in school zones. The findings were alarming.

In addition to the observational survey, the study also describes findings from discussions with more than 2,400 students. 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.

I see this all the time. School started in area communities over the last few weeks and I think I see 3-5 teens each day on their way to school listening to headphone or texting.

As the school year kicks off, share this information with your middle and high schoolers who may be walking to school.  It’s so important to be paying full attention when crossing the street!

Safe Kids Greater Dayton and FedEx are launching a national effort calling on parents and teens to join the Moment of Silence Campaign and stay safe while walking. Please share this information with your kids!

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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.

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