'Distracted walking' may be to blame for increase in pedestrian accidents around Alabama

Texting while walking dangers

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - We're all probably guilty of walking and talking or texting on our cell phones. In Alabama, researchers found more than 60% of accidents involving distracted walking are caused by pedestrians, not drivers. Our On Your Side Investigators are looking into this troubling trend.

YouTube has put together a top 10 video showing people who can't walk and talk or walk and text at the same time. One guy walks right into a wall!

"Probably more often than not whether I'm walking to lunch during work or something usually on my phone catching up with social media," Cameron Adams who was walking in Railroad Park said.

We found plenty of people walking with their phones around Birmingham and some of them couldn't really walk straight. A recent study finds nearly 60% of texters can't walk and text in a straight line.

There's also danger. Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2017 according to the Governors Highway Safety Association and police believe distracted walking contributed to some of those deaths.

"You never really hear about it. You hear about drinking and driving or texting and driving accidents not really pedestrians," Adams said.

The Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama tracks some of the numbers. In 2017, CAPS says 66 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in Alabama were caused by pedestrians, not drivers.

"I think that people do assume when it's a pedestrian crash, bike crash, motorcycle crash, they always sort of assume well the driver is at fault but that's really not the case," Rhonda Stricklin, the associate director of UA's CAPS program said.

In Alabama, from 2008 to 2017 CAPS says pedestrian crashes have increased 63% and injuries have gone up over 51% with over 57% being fatal.

"That tells you there really is a problem that we're really seeing a huge increase in pedestrian crashes and fatalities and not just in Alabama but across the nation," Stricklin said.

Some cities have made it illegal to walk and text. In 2017, Honolulu became the first major city to ban distracted walking. Officials say pay attention, so you don't become another statistic.

"For obvious reasons, your eyes aren't where they are supposed to be. It puts everybody at risk. Just looking down for one text, you can have your eyes off the roads for five seconds," Sgt. James Shyer with the Honolulu, Hawaii Police Department said.

Researchers at UAB are trying to help bring down the number of pedestrian accidents by placing Bluetooth beacons at one intersection here on campus. The beacons will then send a signal to your smartphone warning you're about to enter a crosswalk. The goal is to get you to pay closer attention to your surroundings and not be glued to your phone. We're told this research project should be rolled out sometime later this year.

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