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1 in 3 use phones, text while crossing the road

Texting while walking is a dangerous habit that too many Americans are partaking in.

A new study revealed that about one in three pedestrians use their mobile phones or text while crossing busy streets.

Crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians injure 60,000 people and kill 4000 every year in the U.S., the study authors said.

"If the texting person in the car gets into a crash, they know it's their fault," lead researcher Dr. Beth Ebel, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, said to HealthDay. "Texters are not looking before they cross the street, they are not crossing with the light, they are walking more slowly and they are not looking at traffic. They are putting themselves at risk; they are putting the car that hits them at risk."

The researchers studied more than 1,100 pedestrians crossing 20 busy roads in Seattle during the summer of 2012. More than half of those observed were between 25 to 44, and most of the research took place during the morning rush hour between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The majority of people -- 80 percent - were alone while crossing the street.

Although 80 percent of the people who passed through obeyed the traffic signals and 94 percent crossed in the appropriate spot between the crosswalks, only one in four engaged in the correct way to cross the street, which includes looking both ways.

The researchers also saw many "distracting" activities from just under 30 percent these pedestrians, including talking on the phone, text messaging or listening to music. Eleven percent of street crossers were listening to music, 7 percent were texting and 6 percent were on the phone.

People who were distracted by their devices took 0.75 to1.29 seconds longer to cross the road than those who were not. Texters specifically took about 2 seconds longer to cross the average three or four lanes of traffic compared to people who were not texting. They were also four times more likely to ignore lights, cross outside the crosswalk or not look both ways.

People with pets or children were also found to be three times more likely not to look before crossing.

Researchers are advocating for harsher admonishment against texting and walking, similar to those set in place by drunk driving.

"Ultimately a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk-driving, will be important to limit the...risk of mobile device use," they wrote.

One expert who was not involved with the research was not surprised at the conclusions the study reached.

"While there are limitations and it is all observational data, this supports common sense and my bias related to distractions while walking," Dr. Carl Schulman, director of injury prevention education at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, said to HealthDay. "Of course it can't go so far as to prove that this poor behavior leads to increased crash and injury risk," he added. "But I don't think it takes a leap of faith to get there."

The study was published on Dec. 12 in Injury Prevention.

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