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Distracted walking" -- how serious a problem is it?

When vehicle-pedestrian accidents occur, the temptation is to automatically blame the driver. But is this always the case? Evidence suggests that the inquiry should be more open to examining the behaviors of the pedestrians as well.

Distracted driving is a recognized phenomenon in Connecticut and elsewhere in the United States; states are increasingly enacting laws to penalize drivers who text and drive or otherwise use handheld devices. But the next time you are walking downtown, look about you and see how many people are walking and texting at the same time, or who have their headsets on and are concentrating more on listening to music or a streaming podcast than on where they are going. There are enough such people that they have earned a nickname: "deadwalkers". And more and more of them are walking into traffic.

In the past decade, the number of people who are using their smartphones while walking has risen about threefold; according to some surveys, any given time more than half of pedestrians are engaging in "multitasking" behaviors that compete with their focus on where they are going and what is around them. This has led to a significant rise in the incidence of injuries when these people walk into things, including moving cars.

What is important to remember is that Connecticut is a comparative fault state: if the pedestrian is partly at fault for an accident involving a vehicle this can reduce a damages award, and if that degree of fault is found to be 51 percent or more then recovery can be denied altogether. The best way as a pedestrian to reduce the risk of being hit by a car is to not be be distracted when walking in proximity to traffic; a side benefit to not being a "deadwalker" is that if you are struck by a car, the chance of having your recovery reduced by comparative fault law is reduced as well. 

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