As kids return to school across the nation next month, nearly 3,000 of them are expected to get hit by cars — and it’s likely that a majority of those injured and killed will be teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, says a national report released Thursday.
"Walking Safely, A Report to the Nation" by SafeKids Worldwide and Fed Ex found an overall 53 percent drop in pedestrian deaths and a 44 percent drop in injuries among those 19 and under.
That was the good news.
But when the various age categories are considered individually, older teenagers prove to be an exception to the positive rule, says Kate Carr, president and CEO of SafeKids Worldwide.
"In the last five years injuries for teenagers 15 to 19 years old increased by 25 percent over the previous five years," Carr told KPCC. "We are hypothesizing that increase is due to digital devices. It's hard to see a kid who doesn’t have earphones in."
And as kids use cell phones, plug into iPods or text while walking, they often tune out the traffic around them, Carr says.
"If you are tempted to text when walking, step to the side and stop walking," Carr advises. "Because we've seen lots of injuries caused by texting while walking."
What’s more, she says, drivers are also more likely to be distracted by their digital devices.
"So we recommend you try to make eye contact when you’re crossing, even if you’re crossing with the light in your favor," says Carr.
On average, the report found 61 youngsters under 19 get hit each day by automobiles, with the back-to-school month of September logging the highest number of auto-youngster collisions. In September of 2010, 2,777 youngsters were hit by cars, the study says.
"Every single one of those injuries are preventable," says Carr.
SafeKids.org offers these Tips For Drivers
- Using cell phones, even hands-free, makes it harder for drivers to be alert to walk¬ers who may also be distracted on cell phones
- Most walkers are injured mid-block, not at intersections, so watch out for kids who may dart into traffic or cross where they shouldn’t
- Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones, before and after school hours
- Give pedestrians the right of way at a crosswalk