It’s a typical afternoon scene at Lewis and Clark High School: Teenagers pour out of the doors as the final bell rings, stuff headphones in their ears, shoot off a quick text message or make a phone call.
Emily Nelson, 16, crossed West Fourth Avenue on Wednesday, glancing at her phone as she did.
“I’m attached,” Nelson said, gripping her iPhone.
Using electronics while walking poses a serious risk to teenagers, Safe Kids Worldwide concluded in a recent study.
Pedestrian injuries among 16- to 19-year-olds have increased 25 percent in the past five years, according to the study from the organization that works to prevent accidental injuries to children. Late-teen pedestrian deaths make up 50 percent of all deaths among people 19 and younger.
The study, which observed the behaviors of 34,325 middle and high school students crossing the street in a school zone, found that 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 8 middle school students were distracted by electronic devices.
Of those distracted teens, 39 percent were texting, 39 percent were wearing headphones, 20 percent were talking on the phone and 2 percent were playing a handheld gaming device.
Safe Kids Washington Director Julie Alonso said there’s a strong correlation between the increase in distractions and the increase in accidents and deaths.
“You can’t tie every single pedestrian death to distraction,” she said. “But there has been an uptick.”
Safe Kids proposes that jaywalking laws should be updated to include citations for distracted walking. Some cities have already added citations, including Rexburg, Idaho, where distracted pedestrians may face a $50 ticket for texting while crossing in a crosswalk.
Spokane police Officer Teresa Fuller, who works with Safe Kids Spokane, said she’s observed teenagers being nearly hit by cars when they’ve been texting. Teens who are plugged in aren’t aware of their surroundings and often dart into crosswalks without looking both ways.
It may not carry the same risks as texting while driving, but it’s still dangerous, she said.
“You’re not in a two-ton vehicle, but you’re not protected,” she said.
Nelson isn’t surprised by the data, admitting that she once walked into a stop sign while texting – but that doesn’t mean she’s going to quit, she said.
“Is that bad?” she said, laughing.