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Texting and Walking: Dangerous but not Illegal

In recent years, distracted driving has been the focal point of safe driving campaigns. From United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's distracted driving campaign to state laws from coast to coast, distracted driving laws banning texting and driving have taken effect with the goal of increasing safety on the roads.

In the summer of 2011, rumors throughout the Philadelphia area led residents to believe that the government had taking texting and driving bans one step further and banned texting and walking. In May, the "Give Respect, Get Respect" campaign was launched to help bikers, motorists and pedestrians stay safe. The rumors of the texting and walking fines stemmed from this initiative. However, these rumors are not true.

Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Public Utilities Rina Cutler denied the rumors in a statement. "Pedestrians may be reminded to be more aware of their surroundings; however, there are no citations issued by the PPD [Philadelphia Police Department] for texting while walking."

Pedestrian safety remains a major issue of concern for the Philadelphia area. In Transportation for America's list of most dangerous cities for pedestrians, Philadelphia ranks 39th. According to the organization, the city averages 1.7 fatalities per 100,000 pedestrian accidents.

Pedestrians are at particular risk of injury at intersections because, unfortunately, drivers are often not paying attention. Pedestrians are at risk for serious injuries such as:

  • Broken bones
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions
  • Back injuries, including slipped discs

While it isn't illegal to be distracted while walking, the safety of pedestrians is best protected when distractions are minimized. If you are approaching a busy intersection, make sure that you are aware of all vehicle traffic. Make eye contact with drivers in the area to let them know that you are going to cross. Obey all traffic signals, and only cross when it is safe to do so.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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