With Halloween just around the corner, our neighborhood streets will be filled with kids. Did you know Halloween is one of the deadliest nights of the year for child pedestrians. Twice as many children are killed walking on Halloween compared to other times of the year. So it is incredibly important to do all we can to keep our kids safe.
In 2015, 284 teens ages 12-19 were killed while walking; that’s more than 5 pedestrian deaths every week. With the support of FedEx, Safe Kids Worldwide set out in spring 2016 to revisit the issue of pedestrian distraction in teens. They observed the street crossing behavior of more than 39,000 middle and high school students walking to and from school, with a focus on unsafe walking behaviors and distraction by mobile devices. They also made more than 56,000 driver observations during student drop-off/pick-up to assess for distraction and other unsafe driving behaviors.
Schools were surveyed regarding policies addressing cell phone and headphone use and driver drop-off/pick-up procedures. Finally, they explored the impact of two simple, inexpensive, real-time ways to increase awareness of the risks and decrease unsafe behavior – road stencils for pedestrians and lawn signs for drivers.
They found that distracted and other forms of unsafe street crossing behavior are persistent risks for students traveling within school zones. Seventeen percent of middle school students and 27 percent of high school students observed were distracted by mobile devices. Distracted teens were wearing headphones (44 percent), texting (31 percent), talking on the phone (18 percent) or a combination of the three (7 percent). Assuming comparability of the 2016 results with a previous study from 2013 “Teens And Distraction: An In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” distracted walking increased from 1 in 5 to more than 1 in 4 among high school students and from 1 in 8 to 1 in 6 for middle school students.
Finally, while further evaluation is needed, Safe Kids found that both road stencils and lawn signs encouraging “Heads Up Phones Down” reduced distracted behavior among pedestrians and drivers.
With child pedestrian deaths on the rise, Safe Kids is asking communities to take action to protect kids on the move.
• Identify high risk school zones and aggressively pursue proven interventions, like crosswalks, appropriate speed limits, visible signs, crossing guards and traffic lights.
• Educate parents and students on dangerous walking and driving habits, e.g., crossing mid-block, texting or talking on the phone.
• Set and enforce speed limits in school zones at no more than 20 miles per hour.
• Implement and enforce school policies regarding drop-off and pick-up of students.
To take action, reach out to your school officials and local elected officials. For more information, visit safekids.org.
• Girls were 1.2 times more likely to cross the street distracted than boys. Girls were also more likely to be talking or texting on the phone, whereas boys were more likely to be wearing headphones.
• Distracted students were also more likely to be from high schools, suggesting that age is also a risk factor.
• In the past two years there has been a 13 percent increase in the pedestrian death rate for 12-19 year olds
• Seventeen percent of middle school students and 27 percent of high school students observed were distracted by mobile devices: headphones (44 percent), texting (31 percent), talking on the phone (18 percent) or a combination of the three (7 percent)
• While the school zone was clearly marked in about 9 out of 10 schools, school zone speed limits of 20 miles per hour (mph) or less were present in only 33 and 38 percent of middle and high schools, respectively
• 87 percent of middle schools and 77 percent of high schools had some sort of school policy related to drop-off/pick-up zones. However, 4 out of 10 middle schools and 6 out of 10 high schools did not enforce the existing policy
• Nearly 1 in 3 drivers displayed unsafe drop-off or pick-up behavior, such as double-parking, blocking a crosswalk or parking on the opposite side of the street.
• Drivers were more likely to be distracted during afternoon pick-up than at morning drop-off, gender – female drivers were more likely to be distracted than males and speed limit – drivers were more likely to be distracted if the speed limit in the zone was more than 20 mph.