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12/30/2013 - Walking while texting proves to be dangerous

More than 4,400 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011 alone.

It seems like just about every holiday season, smartphones, portable music players and tablets are hot items on consumers' wish lists, as 9-to-5'ers and students type and scroll away while they're en route to work or class. But in several parts of the country, people's inattention to what's around them while walking has had some unintended consequences.

Earlier this year, the University of Virginia launched a four-day pedestrian safety campaign aimed at calling attention to the ever-increasing trend of injuries resulting from individuals being hit by automobiles. Campus police were keenly aware of this safety threat, as 10 people were struck by vehicles in the previous three years.

Samantha Richardson, an undergraduate student at UVA who helped organize the campaign, noted at the time that people are often so wrapped up in whatever it is that their typing or texting, they're unwittingly putting their lives at risk.

"Many pedestrians fail to pause conversations, take out headphones or put away cell phones while crossing University Avenue at The Corner," said Richardson.

The pedestrian distraction problem isn't confined to college campuses. According to a recent study published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, injuries as well as auto insurance claims involving pedestrians and wireless devices more than doubled between 2004 and 2010.

In August, the Department of Transportation announced that it would make $2 million in pedestrian safety grants available to cities where pedestrian death rates were elevated. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration introduced a website with safety recommendations that local leaders and everyday individuals can use to guard against these risks.

More than 4,400 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most of the incidents that happened occurred in urban areas.

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