Study: Cell Phones Pose Risks for Pedestrians, Too

"We know that cell phones pose a hazard for people when they're driving, but pedestrians may also be at risk if they are not careful," said Jack Nasar, professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University and the co-author of a study recently published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Nasar, along with colleagues at Temple University in Philadelphia and Brooklyn Polytechnic University in New York, conducted online or phone interviews with 622 students at Ohio State in two studies one year apart.

In one study, about 75 percent of students said that carrying a cell phone while walking alone at night made them feel somewhat or a lot safer. In the other study, 40 percent of cell phone users said that, with their phones, they walked somewhere after dark that they wouldn't otherwise go. Women especially reported feeling a greater increase in safety carrying a cell phone, probably because they felt more vulnerable in the first place, Nasar said.

"Students seem to feel less vulnerable when they carry a cell phone, although there's not evidence that they really are," Nasar said. "If anything, they are probably less safe because they are paying less attention to their surroundings."

In a separate study, Nasar and his colleagues found that 48 percent of cell phone users crossed a busy road in front of approaching cars, compared to only 25 percent of those not using phones. The researchers conducted an independent survey of 100 students at Brooklyn Polytechnic and found similar results, Nasar said, indicating that the findings could apply to a wide variety of students from across the country. "Students need to be aware of their surroundings when they’re out using their cell phone," he said. "In some cases, walking with a cell phone might make them vulnerable, either to crime or to an accident."

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