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Effort to reduce fatal car accidents targets distracted pedestrians

Over the last few years, traffic safety advocates have been raising awareness about distracted driving in order to reduce the number of fatal car accidents on America’s highways. Now using the same rationale, lawmakers in two states want to pass measures against distracted pedestrians. The proposed laws seek to eliminate the use of cell phones, music players and other electronics when pedestrians and other non-drivers are close to a roadway.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrians account for 12 percent of car accident fatalities. According to the same group the number of pedestrian fatalities rose in the first half of 2010 and if the number in the latter part of 2010 does not demonstrate a decrease, 2010 would be the first year in four where there has been an increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities. The safety advocate group like the lawmakers would like to see increased awareness of the dangers of walking, running and biking while distracted.

Lawmakers in Arkansas want to limit the use of headphones on both ears by pedestrians, runners and cyclists who are in proximity of any street. The proposed measure allows the use of headphones in only one ear when non-drivers are close to roadways. The purpose of the law is to increase awareness. A proposed law in New York has a similar point.

Over the last four years lawmakers in New York have tried to pass distracted pedestrian legislation. The proposed law in New York would limit the use of cell phones, music players and other electronic gadgets while using a crosswalk in a city of 1 million people or more. One state legislator, who is a proponent of the law, says that the issue of distracted pedestrians is no different than distracted driving. Advocates believe pedestrians should shoulder some responsibility in preventing car accidents.

Source: USA Today, “States take aim at distracted pedestrians,” Brett Flashnick, 1/24/11

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