Distracted Walkers

If you are talking on the phone while crossing a busy street in China, the likelihood of your getting hit by a car is close to a hundred percent. Thanks to the sign of “Yield to the Pedestrians” or simply the value of “people foremost” in the U.S., pedestrians who are engaged in their smartphones while walking are lucky enough to escape from accidents. But one cannot always be that fortunate.

A recent safety report shows that about 1,150 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. last year for injuries while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic devices. The number shows no sign of reducing but instead, is on the rise.

On city streets, in suburban parking lots and in shopping centers, it’s a common sight: someone strolling while talking on the phone, texting with one’s head down, listening to music or playing a video game. The danger is as high as distracted driving.

Several times a distracted walker nearly bumped into me when I was walking. I couldn’t imagine if I were in a car. When pedestrians have their ears plugged, or vision blocked by their electronic devices, how can they hear the honks from an approaching vehicle? How can they be aware that the walking signal has turned red?

I won’t be surprised if I accidently hit a distracted walker in America, the fault will be on me instead of otherwise. I remember one time when it was supposed to be my turn to make a right turn. A jogger was totally oblivious of the no-walking signal and ran anyway in front of my car, showing angry body language at me. As he ran across the street, he adjusted his earphones as if to shun a real world that will someday cost him a life for his violation.

Although I’ve been living in the States for three years, I still don’t understand why pedestrians take for granted that they always have the right of way. When the pedestrian light is blinking as a warning, some people are still taking their time to cross the street. I still hurry across the street despite having the right of way because in China drivers never wait. If the number of walking injuries keeps climbing, I guess the next person who can develop a “wake up” app for distracted walkers will probably make big money.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America