Deaths on the Rise for Distracted Pedestrians

Jason King
Jason King. Last month in New York he was run over by a truck backing up. King's iPod may have drowned out the truck's warning signal

Driving can be particularly dangerous if you're distracted by a cell phone or the radio. But walking while distracted can be dangerous as well, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

Last month in New York City, Jason King was run over by a truck backing up. It's believed King's iPod may have drowned out the truck's warning signal.

"Unfortunately we've done such a great job with reminding people about being distracted behind the wheel, one thing we haven't done is reminding people about how to be a safe walker," said Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In Chapel Hill, N.C., a 20-year-old student was killed by a bus while jogging and listening to music. A 31-year-old Calif. man and a 39-year-old Ala. woman were both hit by trains while on their phones.

After four straight years of declines, the latest numbers show an increase in pedestrian deaths. And the evidence suggests electronic devices may be to blame.

"You really, really need to pay attention to what you're doing and where you're going," said Bill Southhall.

Now some state lawmakers want to stop the music. In Oregon, cyclists would be banned from using mobile phones and music players while riding. Similar bills are being considered in Virginia and California. In New York, a state senator wants to ban the use of the devices while crossing the street -- imposing a $100 fine.

"It's actually necessary as we see mounting fatalities and vehicular accidents," said Carl Kruger.

However well-intentioned, the legislation raises the question: Are the police going to ticket every single person who texts or talks on a phone while crossing the street?

"I don't want, like, a bunch of cops to stop fighting crime to stop, you know, stop a big fat guy from listening to an iPod during lunch," said Bill Southall. "I mean what the heck."

It's part of how we live now, that can border on the absurd, like the infamous YouTube video of the woman who fell into a fountain while texting.

But something's got to be done -- but as some other pictures tell us, distraction is no laughing matter.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.