The Garden City Telegram
8/20/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Safer steps

Lessons on distractions could prevent accidents.

With another school year starting, local law enforcement officers are reminding motorists to drive with extra caution — and for good reason.

Children walking or bicycling to school, or getting on or off school buses always are at risk of being hit by motorists.

At the same time, parents need to make sure their youngsters receive an important lesson on how to head off to school in a safe way.

Growing concern understandably centers on the use of cell phones and other digital devices. Too often, children, teens and adults are walking in public without paying enough attention to their surroundings.

They're talking on a cell phone, texting, listening to music or using digital devices in some other distracting way.

A recent report from Safe Kids Worldwide, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, drove home the danger.

The study from 2012, "Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation," revealed that while pedestrian safety has improved overall for children since 1995, an alarming number of youngsters still are hit by cars or other vehicles.

Every day, more than 60 youngsters reportedly are injured severely enough to require medical attention. Tragically, more than 500 children are killed each year nationwide in such accidents.

And not surprisingly, current trends show teenagers becoming the most at-risk youth for pedestrian injuries. The increase in teen injuries has been linked to the prevalence of cell phone use, both among walkers and drivers.

About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones. They need to understand the importance of putting phones and other digital devices away when walking in areas of potential danger.

Anyone using a digital device becomes less attentive to traffic, whether driving or walking. Unfortunately, we now have an even more dangerous mix of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians.

Public safety campaigns have focused on the perils of electronic communication while driving. It's also important to issue similar warnings on the need for people walking to concentrate on what's ahead instead of the latest text message or other digital information.

With school starting up, it's time for everyone — adults and their children — to get the message.