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12/3/2012

Distracted walkers create another public safety issue.

Distracted walkers create another public safety issue.

The risk involved when teens get behind the wheel has been well documented.

Teenage motorists too often get in accidents because they're distracted, with cell phone use a common problem.

And now, more young people are falling prey to another hazard linked to cell phones, iPods and other handheld electronic devices: distracted walking.

A new study by Safe Kids Worldwide, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, found that the number of teens injured in pedestrian accidents rose 25 percent in the five-year period of 2006 to 2010, as compared to 2001 to 2005.

The alarming trend only promises to worsen, especially as teenagers rely more on texting and other electronic communication.

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project showed teens send and receive an average of 110 text messages a day. They'll do so in most any situation, to include crossing the street without paying attention, and experiencing close calls with vehicles or worse.

Adults aren't setting a good example, either. Injuries to distracted walkers of all ages who were treated at hospital emergency rooms reportedly more than quadrupled in the past seven years. And that doesn't include undocumented incidents.

It's easy to see how people using digital devices would be less attentive to traffic, whether driving or walking. Unfortunately, we now have an even more dangerous mix of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians.

While cell phones and other electronic devices have made communication more convenient than ever before, it's necessary to use common sense. Most people wouldn't read a magazine while crossing the street or driving a car, but for some reason find it OK to fixate on texting or other information they receive via digital devices while doing so.

Public safety campaigns have focused on the perils of electronic communication while driving. The next step should be similar warnings about the need for people walking to concentrate on what's ahead instead of the latest text message or other digital information.

Most of us heard the following warning while growing up: Watch where you're going. More pedestrians engaged in the digital age need to get the message.

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